Howard Willard
Howard Willard

Altria Group announced today that CEO Howard Willard retired April 14 and was succeeded by vice chairman & CFO Billy Gifford.

The 56-year-old Willard is recovering from COVID-19. He informed Altria's board of his diagnosis on March 19.

Altria, which is the parent company of Philip Morris USA, also said it is separating the roles of chairman and CEO.

Independent director Thomas Farrell, CEO of Dominion Energy, has been elected chairman.

In a statement, Farrell said the board thanked Willard for his nearly 30 years of services and "for helping to set the course for Altria’s 10-year vision to responsibly lead the transition of adult smokers to a non-combustible future."

Altria has been battling the Federal Trade Commission over that non-combustible future. It wants Altria to unwind its investment in Juul Laboratories.

The company has written off the bulk of its investment in Juul, for which it paid $12.8B for a 35 percent stake in 2018.