Imperial Brands finds new boss to steer transformation

Tobacco giant Imperial Brands has appointed a new chief executive after Alison Cooper said she would step down from the role.

Stefan Bomhard faces a battle to re-position the company amid a sector-wide move towards vaping products.

Mr Bomhard comes from Inchcape, a global luxury car dealership, which he has headed since 2015.

It marks a major step up in responsibility for the marketing PhD. London-listed Inchcape has a market value of £2.6 billion, compared with Imperial’s £18.4 billion.

But it also comes with a healthy pay rise for Mr Bomhard, who made a £739,000 base salary at Inchcape. His new wage packet will be almost £1.3 million, with a potential bonus of up to 200% of his salary, plus incentive pay.

Imperial chairwoman Therese Esperdy said: “Stefan has significant experience across multiple consumer sectors and within large multinational organisations, particularly in brand building and consumer-led sales and marketing.

“He has demonstrated strong strategic and operational leadership and has developed a track record of delivering successful transformational change during his tenure at Inchcape.”

Transforming a business could be a vital skill at Imperial, which is at a “significant point” in development, in Ms Esperdy’s words.

Mr Bomhard will inherit the headache of what to do in the US from Ms Cooper.

Bosses were landed with a major problem as calls intensified for action on vaping in the States, after several deaths were linked to the practice.

Imperial was among several businesses that had bet heavily on supposedly safer vaping products as the future of tobacco companies but US President Donald Trump has promised to crack down on vapes.

Sales of the firm’s next generation products, including vape pen blu, in the American market fell by more than a quarter to £111 million.

Ms Cooper has spent the last two decades of her career with the Golden Virginia and Rizla maker, including nine years as chief executive.

During her time in charge, she has halved the number of cigarette brands, and launched the next-generation range.

She has stepped down with immediate effect, and her job will temporarily be filled by executives Dominic Brisby and Joerg Biebernick, until Mr Bomhard takes up the role at an unspecified date.

Liberum analyst Nico von Stackelberg said: “We are encouraged that Imperial has identified a strong external candidate to drive transformational change at Imperial. As we wait for CEO Bomhard’s arrival, Imperial Brands is being managed by a safe pair of hands with both Brisby and Biebernick.”