Altria CEO Howard Willard contracts coronavirus
Vice Chairman and CFO Billy Gifford will temporarily assume CEO role while Willard is on medical leave.
Henrico County-based Altria Group Inc. CEO Howard Willard has tested positive for COVID-19 and is taking a temporary medical leave of absence, Altria’s executive vice president and general counsel Murray Garnick told all salaried and hourly employees through a memo released late Thursday.
“Howard has been out of the office for several days, and we have notified those who were in close contact with Howard and asked them to self-quarantine for 14 days,” Garnick said in the memo.
Billy Gifford, Altria’s vice chairman and chief financial officer, will assume the duties of CEO in addition to his duties as CFO while Willard is on medical leave, according to the memo.
“The Board respects Howard’s need to focus on recovery and expressed confidence that Billy will effectively lead the company through this challenging time,” Garnick said.
Willard has worked at Altria and its forerunner Philip Morris Companies Inc. for more than 25 years, previously serving as Altria’s chief operating officer. Before joining Philip Morris Companies, he worked for Bain & Company and Salomon Brothers Inc. A graduate of Colgate University, Willard also holds an MBA from the University of Chicago. He serves on the Management Roundtable and Kennedy Center Corporate Fund Board of Vice Chairs and is a member of the Catalyst CEOs Champions for Change’s board of directors.
On Thursday, Altria temporarily suspended operations at its Philip Morris USA cigarette manufacturing plant in South Richmond after a second Philip Morris employee tested positive for COVID-19. Altria expects the manufacturing center to suspend its operations for the next two weeks.
Altria employs approximately 3,000 people in the Richmond region between its corporate headquarters in Henrico and Philip Morris USA’s manufacturing facility and research center in Richmond.