Former Tobacco Boss from Britain Named to Head Liggett Group
NEW YORK (AP) _ Ronald S. Fulford, the former head of Britain’s second biggest cigarette company, was named Thursday as chairman and chief executive of Liggett Group, the smallest of the five major U.S. tobacco companies.
Liggett has a slim 2.1 percent share of the $45 billion domestic tobacco market. Its biggest business is making private label cigarettes but also has onetime popular brands like Chesterfield, L&M and Lark.
Fulford, 61, had been executive chairman of Hanson PLC’s Imperial Tobacco division from 1987 through February of this year.
He was then recruited by Liggett’s parent, Bennett LeBow’s Brooke Group Ltd., for Brooke’s unsuccessful drive to gain control of the RJR Nabisco Holdings Corp., owner of the second biggest U.S. tobacco company.
If Brooke had won its effort to unseat the RJR board, Fulford was to be installed as head of the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. which makes Camel, Winston and Salem cigarettes among others.
Fulford replaces Rouben Chakalian as Liggett’s chairman and Douglas Cummins as Liggett’s chief executive.
Miami-based Brooke Group said Chakalian will remain on Liggett’s board and serve as a consultant to the company. It said Cummins had resigned to pursue other interests.
LeBow said in a statement that Fulford ``is determined to improve performance at Liggett and we’ve got tremendous confidence in his ability to do so.″ He said Fulford engineered a dramatic turnaround at Imperial, tripling profits and productivity while cutting costs and increasing market share.
He has a formidable task ahead of him at Liggett, whose share of the tobacco market has shrunk in recent years.
Its 2.1 percent share for the three months ended June 30 was down from 2.3 percent a year earlier, according to estimates by John Maxwell, tobacco analyst for Wheat First Butcher & Singer in Richmond, Va.
At the same time, private label brands have seen their share of the U.S. tobacco market shrink to a combined 28 percent from 41 percent since prices were slashed on Marlboro and other premium brands in the spring of 1993.
Liggett stunned the tobacco industry earlier this year when LeBow agreed to a settlement of several of the biggest lawsuits against tobacco makers. Other tobacco companies have not followed its lead.
The industry also faces increased restrictions on marketing under rules that the federal Food and Drug Administration has proposed to discourage smoking by children.
In afternoon trading Thursday on the New York Stock Exchange, Brooke Group was up 12 1/2 cents a share at $5.25.