10 Things You Didn’t Know About Altria CEO Howard A. Willard III

As business continues to shift to a global market, the corporate landscape is more competitive than at any time in the past. This heightened level of competition has forced major corporations to see leaders who have the capacity to ensure that they maintain their market share and profitability. It is no different for Altria Group, one of the most powerful tobacco groups on the Planet. To ensure that they are heading in the right direction, Altria brought in Howard A. Willard the III to take the top spot in the company. For many, the name Howard Willard does not ring a bell, so we decided to list 10 things that you don’t know about the new CEO of Altria Group.

1. He Is a Lifer at Altria Group

While it is not uncommon for corporations to bring in big names from the outside to take on their top spot, Willard is a lifer at the company, and he has held numerous leadership roles within the company over his more than 25 years. He has held positions as an Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer. Before that, he was taunting his remarkable innovative thought processes as the President of Strategy and Business Development.

2. He Has Led Some of the Biggest Names in the Tobacco Industry

The reason that some of you have not heard of the Altria Group is that you are more likely more familiar with the names of their subsidiaries, including John Middleton, Philip Morris USA, and U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Company, just to name a few. With the shift in the manner in which society and government agencies are approaching smoking, Willard’s experience will prove valuable in redirecting the company moving forward.

3. He Has an Immensely Diverse Background

What makes Willard such a great choice for the role of CEO is the fact that he has had leadership roles in so many different areas of business operation. You get some leaders whose background is steeped in finance or marketing, but Willard has had leadership roles in finance, marketing, quality, and compliance, as well as corporate responsibility.

4. He Pushes Diversity

The idea of diversity is something that gets a lot of airplay lately, especially in a racially charged environment that seems to be getting worse instead of improving. Willard is extremely passionate about creating a diverse workspace for the employees of the entire Altria family. He actually serves as a signatory for the CEO Action for Diversity and Inclusion.

5. He Sponsored the Employee Resource Group

Altria has a program that offers young and new employees the resources and support they need to be successful and Willard sponsored the group. He believes that to be successful in the 21st centuries companies will have to do a better job of providing an optimal environment for their employees.

6. Interesting Path

The reason that I suggest that Willard has taken an interesting path to his role as CEO of Altria has nothing to do with his work at the company or even where he worked before joining the company in 1992. I only mention it because of many of these new-wave CEO’s have prestigious backgrounds. Don’t get me wrong, he has a B.A. from Colgate and an M.B.A. from the University of Chicago, but you might expect that he graced the campuses of schools like Harvard, Dartmouth, or Yale.

7. He Is Well Compensated for His Trouble

While there are some discrepancies between agencies reported the salary and compensation that Willard receives as CEO, it is believed that he is earning close to $20 million in total compensation. According to resources, he doubled his 2012 salary in 2013, moving to $12.1 million. While he is not the highest paid CEO in the world, he is not doing badly at all.

8. He Knows How to Work Well With Others

The things about being a CEO is the fact that you don’t have complete control over the ship. You are accountable to the board members and shareholders. Fortunately, Willard is not only good at the business side of the equation, but he knows how to handle himself in the boardroom, maintaining a good working relationship with board members.

9. He Has Been Very Instrumental in the Acquisition of New Assets

Since joining the company, Willard has played a vital role in the area of acquisitions. One of the ways in which large corporations become larger is in the acquisition of companies that can help them serve new markets or strengthen their position in current markets and Willard has been front and center when it comes to acquiring new companies.

10. He Also Serves as Chairman

One thing that helps Willard in the boardroom is the fact that he also serves as the chairman of the board. In most situations, the Chairman of the board possesses equal or greater power than the CEO, while refraining from being engaged in day-to-day operations. By holding both positions, Willard has afforded himself a great deal of leeway in how he runs the company.


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