Alison Cooper

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Alison Cooper was appointed Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Imperial Tobacco in May 2010.1
She succeeded Gareth Davis.
On 3 October 2019, it was announced that Cooper would step down “once a suitable successor is found”.2 The announcement came after the company issued a profit warning that reduced the company’s anticipated revenue growth.3


Cooper joined Imperial in 1999, after a career with accounts PricewaterhouseCoopers in acquisitions and strategy planning.4
She held several senior roles in Imperial Tobacco before becoming the company’s CEO:5

  • Chief Operating Officer (2009)
  • Corporate Development Director (2007)
  • Western Europe sales and marketing director (2005)
  • Group financial controller (2001)
  • Group finance manager (1999)

When Cooper took up the top job in 2010, she was quoted in The Telegraph as saying:

“We need a change in mindset. Tobacco has been traditional in the way it has operated. We want to move from being a tobacco manufacturer to a FMCG moving consumer goods company”.6

In line with Cooper’s vision, Imperial Tobacco renamed itself Imperial Brands in 2016.7


Failed Pay Increase

In January 2017, amidst societal concerns about large bonus pay-outs to company bosses8, Imperial Tobacco shareholders blocked plans to give Cooper a £3million pay rise.9
The plans would have seen Cooper gain bonus opportunities which allegedly would have increased her salary from £5.5million to £8.5million.
Imperial’s chairman, Mark Williamson explained Imperial’s U-turn on Cooper’s salary by saying that ‘investors had changed their mind about backing the plans’.9
Cooper herself did not comment on the pay rise issue.

Plain Packaging: “This is not a health issue at all. This is anti-business”

In 2012, Cooper openly attacked plans by the UK Government to introduce tobacco plain packaging measures.
In an interview with the Financial Times, Cooper said. “It’s not just a tobacco issue any more, it’s about government’s role…and a precedent for other businesses in terms of this is where governments can go. This is not about a health issue at all. This is anti-business.”10
Cooper’s comments led one Financial Times commentator, Michael Skapinker, to reply:
“When Alison Cooper, chief executive of Imperial Tobacco, says that forcing tobacco companies to sell cigarettes in plain packets is not about health but is just anti-business, every other business person should tell her not to taint them with her death and disease-ridden trade.”11

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  1. Imperial Brands, Alison Cooper, BSC, ACA, Chief Executive, company website, undated, accessed June 2017
  2. Imperial Brands, Imperial Brands Chief Executive Officer to Step Down, Imperials Brands website, 3 October 2019, accessed October 2019
  3. Imperial Brands, Pre-close Trading Update, Imperials Brands website, 26 September 2019, accessed October 2019
  4. Radio Four Woman’s Hour, Alison Cooper CE Imperial Tobacco, BBC, undated, accessed June 2017
  5. J. Ashton, Interview: Imperial Tobacco chief Alison Cooper – ‘Display bans are a drag but I will keep sparking up bigger profits’, The Evening Standard, 6 June 2014, accessed June 2017
  6. Alison Cooper: lighting up Imperial Tobacco, The Telegraph, 21 March 2010, accessed June 2017
  7. G. Ruddick, Imperial Tobacco plans to drop tobacco…from its name, The Guardian, 15 December 2015, accessed June 2017
  8. Why business needs to gets its house in order over bosses pay, The Independent, 12 June 2017, accessed June 2017
  9. abJ. Treanor, Tobacco giant Imperial Brands rethinks CEO’s pay rise after revolt, The Guardian, 26 January 2017, accessed June 2017
  10. C. Thompson, Imperial head fumes over plain packaging, Financial Times, 7 May 2012
  11. M. Skapinker, Cigarette Companies Versus the Plain Truth, Financial Times, 17 May 2012