Jan du Plessis

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Jan du Plessis was Chairman of British American Tobacco (BAT) between 2004 and 2009.12


Du Plessis has held senior positions with several companies, including:

  • Non-Executive Director BT Group (from 1 June 2018) and Chairman BT Group (from 1 November 2017) 3
  • Chairman of mining corporation Rio Tinto (April 2009 – March 2018)
  • Board member (since 2014) and Chairman (2015 –2016) of SABMiller 4
  • Senior Independent Director of Marks & Spencer (2012 – 2015)
  • Since October 2005, Plessis has served as Non-Executive Director of Lloyds TSB group plc

Career with Tobacco Industry

Du Plessis joined BAT’s Board as a Non-Executive Director in 1999 and became Chairman on 1 July 2004 as well as being the Chairman of the company’s Nominations Committee.
Previously, du Plessis was the Group Finance Director of tobacco company Rothmans International (1990-1996), which was acquired by BAT in 1999.
In 1981, du Plessis joined the Rembrandt Group, a South African tobacco and business conglomerate owned by Johann Rupert, which was later consolidated with Rothmans International.

Challenged About Breaching of Marketing Code

At BAT’s 2007 Annual General Meeting, Deborah Arnott, Director of British health charity Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), challenged du Plessis to respond to allegations that BAT was using questionable marketing methods around the world which glamorise and romanticise smoking, and are particularly attractive to young people.5 Arnott’s comments followed allegations from a young Nigerian who showed evidence that BAT was selling cigarettes in Nigeria in quantities of two rather than packs of ten and twenty, which makes cigarettes cheaper to buy for unaged smokers. Arnott asked du Plessis: “How can you do this, yet say you practice corporate social responsibility?”
Du Plessis claimed at the time that the accusations were too general, but subsequently BAT admitted in a letter to ASH that that there “appear to be a couple of examples that may be in breach of our International Marketing Standards”.
Also see British American Tobacco in Africa: A History of Double Standards.

Criticised the UK Smoking Ban

Du Plessis has described British parliamentarians as “paternalistic” and “intolerant” because they voted in favour of a total smoking ban. 6 Furthermore, he called the ban “draconian” and said that “this is such a political debate and people are not interested in the science. People just want to clobber the tobacco industry”.

TobaccoTactics Resources

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  1. British American Tobacco, Board of Directors, 19 February 2009, accessed October 2018
  2. Bloomberg, Jan P. du Plessis, undated, accessed October 2018
  3. London Stock Exchange, Jan du Plessis appointed as Chairman, 9 March 2017, accessed October 2018
  4. J. Yeomans, Rio Tinto chairman Jan Du Plessis heads to BT, 9 March 2017, accessed October 2018
  5. ASH, BAT admits breach of its marketing code, ASH website, 9 May 2007, accessed October 2018
  6. P. Klinger, BAT attack on ‘intolerant’ MPs, The Times , 1 March 2006, accessed October 2018