Altria Group, Inc. history, profile and corporate video
Altria Group, Inc. operates as a holding company that produces and markets tobacco products. The company operates its business through four segments: Smokeable Products, Smokeless Products, Wine, and Financial Services. The Smokeable Products segment comprised of cigarettes manufactured and sold by PM USA and machine-made large cigars and pipe tobacco manufactured and sold by Middleton. The Smokeless Products segment manufactured and sold by or on behalf of USSTC and PM USA. The Wine segment producer of Washington State wines, primarily Chateau Ste. Michelle and Columbia Crest, and owns wineries in or distributes wines from several other wine regions. Altria Group was founded in 1919 and is headquartered in Richmond, Virginia, United States.
ALTRIA GROUP HISTORY
Altria emerged from Philip Morris. The onset of “rebranding” of Philip Morris Companies to Altria took place in 2003 (Philip Morris would later split, with PM USA remaining Altria’s primary and only consistently held asset). Altria was created because Philip Morris wished to emphasize that its business portfolio had come to consist of more than Philip Morris USA and Philip Morris International; at the time, it owned an 84% stake in Kraft, although that business has since been spun off. The name “Altria” is claimed to come from the Latin word for “high” and was part of a trend of companies rebranding to names that previously did not exist, Accenture and Verizon being notable examples, though linguist Steven Pinker suggests that in fact, the name is an “egregious example” of phonesthesia – with the company attempting to “switch its image from bad people who sell addictive carcinogens to a place or state marked by altruism and other lofty values”.
The company’s branding consultants, the Wirthlin Group, said: “The name change alternative offers the possibility of masking the negatives associated with the tobacco business,” thus enabling the company to improve its image and raise its profile without sacrificing tobacco profits.
Philip Morris executives thought a name change would insulate the larger corporation and its other operating companies from the political pressures on tobacco.
The rebranding took place amidst social, legal and financially troubled circumstances. In 2003 Altria was ranked Fortune number 11, and has steadily declined since. In 2010 Altria Group (MO) ranked at Fortune number 137, whereas its former asset, Philip Morris International was ranked 94th.
In 2007, Altria began selling all its shares of Philip Morris International to Altria stockholders. The company also began a move to purchase cigar manufacturer John Middleton Co. from Bradford Holdings, Inc., which went into effect in 2008. After Philip Morris International spun off, the foreign Philip Morris companies halted the purchase of tobacco from America, which was a major factor associated with the closing of a newly renovated plant in North Carolina, approximately 50% reduction in manufacturing, large-scale layoffs and induced early retirements.
In 2008, Altria officially moved its headquarters to Richmond. With a few exceptions, all blue-collar, white-collar, and executive employees had long been based at one of several Philip Morris buildings in Richmond and the greater Richmond area. The move of white-collar operations to Richmond had taken place after Philip Morris sold its downtown offices in New York City a decade earlier. Aside from the Philip Morris/Altria headquarters, some of their other buildings included the Philip Morris Center for Research and Technology in downtown Richmond, the Manufacturing Center in South Richmond, and the adjacent Operations Center which began shutting down in 2007-2008, as a result of the loss of demand from PMI member companies. The layoffs beginning in 2007 affected thousands of Altria, Altria Client Services, Philip Morris USA, and contracted employees in Richmond and North Carolina.
In 2009, Altria finalized its purchase of UST Inc., whose products included smokeless tobacco (made by U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Company) and wine (made by Ste. Michelle Wine Estates). This ended a short era of competition between the new Marlboro smokeless tobacco products such as snus, and those produced by UST Inc.
*Information from Forbes.com, Wikipedia.org, and www.altria.com
**Video published on YouTube by “Altria“