British American Tobacco Appoints Richard Burrows as Chairman

LONDON — British American Tobacco PLC Wednesday confirmed the appointment of former Bank Of Ireland Governor Richard Burrows as its new chairman.

Mr. Burrows will replace Jan du Plessis on Nov 1.
[ Mr. Burrows was previously Bank Of Ireland governor and co-chief executive of Pernod Ricard.] AFP/Getty Images

Mr. Burrows was previously Bank Of Ireland governor and co-chief executive of Pernod Ricard.

Mr. du Plessis announced his intention to step down after five years in the job earlier this year, to become chairman of miner Rio Tinto PLC.

Mr. Burrows resigned from the Bank Of Ireland in May, following a disastrous year in which the bank made a pretax loss of £6.2 billion ($10.27 billion), and had to seek financial assistance from the Irish government. He apologized to investors at the time for the loss of shareholder value and the cancelation of the group’s dividend.

Analysts were unconcerned with Mr. Burrows’ Bank Of Ireland record however, concentrating instead on his highly successful career in the fast-moving consumer goods, or FMCG, industry.

Mr. Burrows was chief executive of Irish Distillers from 1978 until its takeover by Pernod Ricard SA in 1988. He continued to work within the French drinks group and eventually served as co-chief executive of Pernod Ricard from 2000 to 2005.

“Richard’s executive career in the worldwide FMCG sector makes him an excellent choice, as does his proven ability to work with a team from various cultures and countries,” said BAT senior independent director Nick Scheele. “He’s also an experienced non-executive director and the Board of British American Tobacco looks forward to the additional perspective he will be able to bring.”

The BAT chair is a non-executive position, but a higher-profile role than at other similarly sized companies. In the past, Mr. du Plessis has taken responsibility for commenting on any political issues — such as antismoking legislation — leaving Chief Executive Paul Adams to concentrate on operational matters.

Ambrian analyst Andrew Darke said Mr. du Plessis had done a tremendous job as chairman and would be a difficult act to follow, but added that Mr. Burrows was an “excellent” appointment given his experience in the FMCG industry.

The news was heavily flagged in the weekend press and Wednesday’s confirmation had little effect on the shares. BAT, with a market capitalization of £38 billion, is among the U.K.’s largest companies. It has more than 300 brands, including Dunhill, cigs4us.biz/kent-cigarette, Lucky Strike and Pall Mall.

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