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Altria CEO Howard Willard steps down, finance head to succeed

Credit: REUTERS/DADO RUVIC

Marlboro cigarette maker Altria Group Inc said on Friday Chief Executive Officer Howard Willard, who is recovering from COVID-19, has stepped down after nearly three decades with the company.

Adds details from statement, background

April 17 (Reuters) - Marlboro cigarette maker Altria Group Inc MO.N said on Friday Chief Executive Officer Howard Willard, who is recovering from COVID-19, has stepped down after nearly three decades with the company.

Chief Financial Officer Billy Gifford, who was last month named interim CEO when the company disclosed that Willard had taken a medical leave of absence, will assume the role on a permanent basis.

Under Willard, 56, who was also the chairman, Altria took a 35% stake in Juul Labs Inc. The company has since seen the value of that investment dwindle due to several bans on e-cigarettes following a surge in teenage vaping and reported health-linked concerns.

Altria said on Friday it was separating the roles of CEO and chairman and named Thomas Farrell, formerly the board's independent presiding director, to the role.

The company appointment finance and procurement vice president Salvatore Mancuso as Gifford's replacement.

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