Lamont welcomes Philip Morris, a tobacco icon trying to quit smoking, to CT
Philip Morris International, the Big Tobacco icon struggling to reinvent itself as an e-cigarette supplier, is moving its Connecticut headquarters from its home adjacent to Grand Central Terminal in New York City.
The publicly traded company announced the move on Tuesday ahead of the opening of trading on the New York Stock Exchange, where its share price exceeded $ 100 on Monday. The news was highlighted during a roundtable discussion attended by Governor Ned Lamont in Stamford.
Relocations of companies from another state are normally a cause for unvarnished celebration, but Lamont welcomes a company whose legacy products have made the brand a public health outcast, responsible for the largest source of preventable deaths in the country. world.
“We do not sell cigarettes as you know them in the United States in any state,” said Jacek Olczak, the Czech-born executive recently promoted from chief operating officer to chief executive officer of the company.
“PMI and Connecticut, we’re both reinventing ourselves in a way,” said Lamont, who has been trying to rename Connecticut as a business-friendly state since taking office in 2019.
Connecticut offers no incentive for the move, which is expected to bring more than 200 head office employees into the state, said Max Reiss, a spokesperson for Lamont. But the governor said he played a direct role in attracting the business, referring to conversations that began in 2019, apparently with Olczak’s predecessor, André Calantzopoulos.
“It started with a relationship. We just had a common associate, a friend, who introduced us, ”Lamont said. “Most states do it by asking the governor to be on TV or make a direct call. We did it on a personal basis.
Phillip Morris is looking for a location in Lower Fairfield County, Olczak said.
“It’s a different type of relationship,” Lamont said. “You’re used to relationships where we pay people and incentives based on a number of jobs. And there is none of that in this relationship. You know, we’ve shook hands and they’re going to go into the state, create a whole new product that’s making a big difference. And we did it on the basis of trust.
Philip Morris International is based in the United States, with an operational headquarters in Switzerland, but ceased its sales of cigarettes in America after its 2008 split from Altria, which markets Marlboro and other brands of cigarettes in the United States. via Philip Morris USA.
“Despite the fact that, yes we are a big tobacco company, we have said that our goal is to get rid of cigarettes and replace them with the best alternatives for people who would otherwise continue to smoke,” said Olczak, pointing to a corporate power of attorney statement.
Its rebranding has been met with skepticism as it still sells cigarettes elsewhere in the world, although the company pledges to generate half of its revenue from smokeless tobacco products by 2025.
Indra Nooyi, the former chief executive and chairman of PepsiCo who co-hosted the meeting, asked Lamont to respond to this skepticism and how the company’s welcome to Connecticut reflects on its governor.
“Let’s tackle a difficult question,” she said. “What does that say about you, your take on Big Tobacco and some of the criticisms that, you know, state leaders have leveled at Big Tobacco, which the biggest cigarette company in the world? world, working to disrupt itself, comes to Connecticut, what would you say to these critics? “
“I would say, ‘Look at the new PMI,’” replied Lamont. “Listen to what Jacek said about how the PMI will be defined over the next three to five years, what I said about innovation, what I said about the possibility of change, of changing with time. And that’s what PMI does. I am proud that they are there.
The announcement was made during a live meeting hosted by Advance Connecticut, a state-affiliated nonprofit that promotes economic development in Connecticut. The association is co-chaired by two former company CEOs who are advisers to the governor: Jim Smith of Webster Bank and Nooyi
Lamont thanked them as well as David Lehman, the former partner of Goldman Sachs who is the State Department’s commissioner of economic and community development.
“It’s the guys who follow up every day, it’s the relationships that make the difference,” Lamont said. “This is how we, a small state like Connecticut, which is above its weight class, is on the radar screen of a big company like PMI, and I really appreciate what you’re doing.”
By committing to move to smokeless tobacco, Phillip Morris will continue to sell products that still contain nicotine, a highly addictive and dangerous chemical. She sells IQOS, a product that heats tobacco, but does not burn it. The company is also developing a vaping line.
Lamont, who has tried and failed this year to ban flavored vaping marketed to adolescents, has seen no conflict in welcoming PMI, nor has he signaled a withdrawal from his administration’s public health initiatives.
“I’m the guy who tried to get rid of the flavored vapes here in this state.” he said. “I thought it was the right thing to do. We did not get it through the legislature and we will try again as soon as possible. “