British American Tobacco chief executive Jack Bowles has stepped down with immediate effect, the company said on Monday.
Bowles has been succeeded by London-listed BAT’s finance director Tadeu Marroco, who has been with the maker of Lucky Strike and Dunhill cigarettes for three decades.
The world’s second-largest tobacco group provided few details on the abrupt exit of Bowles, who has led the company since 2019. His departure comes after BAT last month paid a $635mn penalty to US authorities, the largest settlement of its kind, over North Korean sanctions violations related to business activities between 2007 and 2017.
Bowles, who served as head of the tobacco company’s Asia-Pacific division between 2013 and 2017, said at the time of the settlement that the cigarette maker “deeply [regretted] the misconduct arising from historical business activities”. Bowles, who has been at BAT for 20 years, has not been accused of any wrongdoing.
BAT accepted it had violated US sanctions by supplying nearly $30mn worth of cigarettes to North Korea’s Singaporean embassy. It also accepted processing just over $250mn worth of cash from sanctioned North Korean banks through US financial institutions as payment for indirectly exporting cigarettes into the communist country.
Bowles said last month that BAT had “transformed” its compliance and ethics programme, which oversees sanctions and anti-money laundering processes, in recent years.
The outgoing chief executive said in a statement on Monday it was “now the time for a change of leadership to take the business to the next level”.
During his tenure, BAT sought to push away from tobacco to new e-cigarette and vaping products through brands such as Vuse.
BAT’s chair Luc Jobin thanked Bowles for his “significant contribution” to the FTSE 100 group. He added in his statement: “To fully deliver on our transformation in a fast-changing environment we must continue to evolve as a high performing and agile consumer goods company.”
Marroco began his career at BAT in Brazil in 1992. He became finance director in 2019. His previous roles included group transformation director and regional director for Europe and north Africa.
His elevation to the top job comes as BAT faces some pressure from shareholders to move its primary listing to New York.