Imperial Brands boss Alison Cooper to leave after nine-year tenure
Ms Cooper’s departure will take the number of female FTSE 100 chief executives to five.
Imperial Brands chief executive Alison Cooper has announced plans to stand down after nine years in the role and two decades with the tobacco giant.
Ms Cooper will leave once a successor has been appointed, the group said.
It comes amid a wave of chief executive departures, with Tesco boss Dave Lewis revealing on Wednesday he will step down next summer on the same day that City heavyweight Martin Gilbert announced he will leave Standard Life Aberdeen and Metro Bank founder Vernon Hill said he would exit by the end of the year.
Imperial, which makes the vaping brand blu as well as cigarettes such as Davidoff and Winston, is also hunting for a new chairman to succeed Mark Williamson.
Mr Williamson said: “Alison has worked tirelessly and with great energy and passion during her 20 years with Imperial, nine of which have been as chief executive, and the board would like to thank her for the tremendous contribution she has made.
“During her tenure as chief executive, the business has been significantly simplified and reshaped to strengthen its long-term growth potential, and more than £10 billion in dividends has been returned to shareholders.”
He added her decision to continue until a successor has been appointed will help ensure an “orderly transition of responsibilities”.
Ms Cooper’s departure follows Imperial’s warning just last week over a hit to annual sales after US President Donald Trump’s move to crack down on flavoured e-cigarettes and tighten regulation on vaping products.
It will also cut the number of female FTSE 100 chief executives to just five.
During her lengthy tenure, Ms Cooper has refocused the group’s portfolio, halving the number of cigarette brands.
She has also boosted its presence in the US and presided over the launch of its so-called next generation range of products in vaping and tobacco heating.
But the sector faces rockier times amid a Trump administration plan to pull fruit flavoured e-cigarettes from the market, unless approved by the Food and Drug Administration, in an attempt to make them less attractive to young consumers.
US regulators are also examining hundreds of cases of people who are sick from what appears to be a vaping-related lung disease.
Imperial said last week it had seen a “marked” slowdown in the US vaping market in recent weeks, with rising numbers of wholesalers and retailers not ordering or allowing the promotion of vaping products.
This, together with tougher trading conditions across Africa, Asia and Australasia, means it now sees group revenues growing by a slower-than-forecast 2%, and earnings per share to be “broadly flat”.