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R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company

R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company
Industry Tobacco
Founded 1875[1]
Founder Richard Joshua Reynolds
Headquarters 401 N. Main St., Winston-Salem, N.C., USA
Key people
Susan Cameron, Chief Executive Officer
Number of employees
Parent Reynolds American, Inc.
The R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company (RJR), based in Winston-Salem, North Carolina and founded by R. J. Reynolds in 1875,[1] is the second-largest tobacco company in the U.S. (behind Altria Group). RJR is an indirect wholly owned subsidiary of Reynolds American Inc. which in turn is 42% owned by British American Tobacco of the United Kingdom.


Early history

File:George Washington Cut Plug Tobacco.jpeg
George Washington, early cut plug tobacco brand manufactured by Reynolds

The son of a tobacco farmer in Virginia, R. J. Reynolds sold his shares of his father's company in Patrick County, Virginia, and ventured to the nearest town with a railroad connection, Winston-Salem, to start his own tobacco company.[3] He bought his first factory building from the Moravian Church and established the "little red factory" with seasonal workers. The first year, he produced 150,000 pounds of tobacco; by the 1890s, production had increased to several million pounds a year.[3] The company's factory buildings were the largest buildings in Winston-Salem, with new technologies such as steam power and electric lights.[3] The second primary factory building, built in 1892, is the oldest Reynolds factory still standing and was sold to Forsyth County in 1990.[3]

At the beginning of the 1900s, Reynolds bought most of the competing tobacco factories in Winston-Salem.[3] The company produced 25% of America's chewing tobacco.[3] 1907's Prince Albert smoking tobacco became the company's national showcase product, which led to high-profile advertising in New York City's Union Square.[3] The Camel cigarette became the most popular cigarette in the country. The Reynolds company imported so much French cigarette paper and Turkish tobacco for Camel cigarettes that Winston-Salem was designated by the United States federal government as an official port of entry for the United States, despite the city being Script error: No such module "convert". inland.[3] Winston-Salem was the eighth-largest port of entry in the United States by 1916.[3]

In 1917, the company bought 84 acres of property in Winston-Salem and built 180 houses that it sold at cost to workers, to form a development called "Reynoldstown."[3]

File:RJR Tobacco.JPG
R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Factory in Downtown Winston-Salem, NC

At the time Reynolds died in 1918 (of pancreatic cancer), his company owned 121 buildings in Winston-Salem.[3] He was so integral to company operations that executives did not hang another chief executive's portrait next to Reynolds' in the company board room until 41 years later.[3] Reynolds' brother William Neal Reynolds took over following Reynolds' death, and six years later Bowman Gray became the chief executive. By that time, Reynolds Co. was the top taxpayer in the state of North Carolina, paying $1 out of every $2.50 paid in income taxes in the state, and was one of the most profitable corporations in the world.[3] It made two-thirds of the cigarettes in the state.[3]

Reynolds Co.'s success during this period can also be measured by the concurrent success of many Winston-Salem companies which received large amounts of business from Reynolds: Wachovia National Bank became one of the largest banks in the Southeast, and the company's law firm Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice became the largest law firm in North Carolina.[4]

R.J. Reynolds Tobacco diversified into other areas, buying Pacific Hawaiian Products, the makers of Hawaiian Punch, in 1962, Sea-Land Service in 1969, and Del Monte Foods in 1979. Sea-Land was spun off in 1984.[5]

Because of the company's diversification, the company changed its name to R.J. Reynolds Industries, Inc. in 1970. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. was a subsidiary.[6]

RJR Nabisco

Main article: RJR Nabisco

R.J. Reynolds Industries merged with Nabisco Brands in 1985, and the name changed to RJR Nabisco in August 1986.[6] In 1987, a bidding war ensued between several financial firms to acquire RJR Nabisco. Finally, the private equity takeover firm Kohlberg Kravis and Roberts & Co (commonly referred to as KKR) was responsible for the 1988 leveraged buyout of RJR Nabisco. This was documented in several articles in The Wall Street Journal by Bryan Burrough and John Helyar. These articles were later used as the basis of a bestselling book, Barbarians at the Gate: The Fall of RJR Nabisco,[7] and then into a television movie. As a result, in February 1989, RJR Nabisco paid executive F. Ross Johnson US$53,800,000 as part of a golden handshake clause, the largest such deal in history at the time,[8] as severance compensation for his acceptance of the KKR takeover. He used the money to open his own investment firm, RJM Group, Inc.[9] In 1999 RJR Nabisco spun off R.J. Reynolds Tobacco, which began trading on June 15 as R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Holdings, Inc., and a year later announced it would buy Nabisco Group Holdings Inc., the company that had been RJR Nabisco. This followed the sale of Nabisco Holdings Group to Philip Morris.[6]

Recent history

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Reynolds American Inc. Building in Downtown Winston-Salem, NC

In 1994, then CEO James Johnston testified under oath before Congress, saying that he didn't believe that nicotine is addictive.[10] In 1998, the company was part of the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement with 46 US states, agreeing to pay smoking-related health care costs and restrict advertising in return for protection against private lawsuits.

In 1999, R.J. Reynolds was spun out of RJR Nabisco. The same year, the company sold all its non-US operations to Japan Tobacco, which made those operations into its international arm, JT International. Consequently, any Camels, Winstons or Salems sold outside the US are now actually Japanese cigarettes.

In 2002, the company was fined $15m for handing out free cigarettes at events attended by children, and was fined $20m for breaking the 1998 Master Agreement, which restricted targeting youth in its tobacco advertisements.[11]

In 2001-2011, the European Community was involved in three civil suits against R.J. Reynolds in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, accusing the company of selling black market cigarettes to drug traffickers and mobsters from Italy, Russia, Colombia and the Balkans. The suits were unsuccessful.[12][13][14][15]

On July 30, 2004, R.J. Reynolds merged with the U.S. operations of British American Tobacco (operating under the name of Brown & Williamson). A new parent holding company, Reynolds American Inc., was established as part of the transaction.

In May 2006 former R.J. Reynolds vice-president of sales Stan Smith pleaded guilty to charges of defrauding the Canadian government of $1,200,000,000 (CDN) through a cigarette smuggling operation. Smith confessed to overseeing the 1990s operation while employed by RJR. Canadian-brand cigarettes were smuggled out of and back into Canada, or smuggled from Puerto Rico, and sold on the black market to avoid taxes. The judge referred to it as biggest fraud case in Canadian history.[16]

Since 2006, R.J. Reynolds has been the subject of a Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) campaign to reduce the exploitative nature of its tobacco procurement system. FLOC's goal is to meet with Reynolds executives, growers, and workers in collective bargaining to improve farmworkers' pay and living conditions. Although there are many layers of subcontractors within the procurement system that seemingly absolve Reynolds of responsibility, FLOC asserts that its executives have the ability to make changes within the system due to their wealth and enormous power. Despite repeated refusals to meet from CEO Susan Ivey, FLOC continues the campaign against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company.[17]

In 2010, Reynolds American announced that the company would close its manufacturing plants in Winston-Salem, NC and Puerto Rico. Production from these plants will be moved to the Tobaccoville, NC plant.[18]

On July 15, 2014, Reynolds American agreed to buy Lorillard Tobacco Company for $27.4 billion.[19] The deal also included the sale of the Kool, Winston, Salem, and Blu brands to Imperial Tobacco for $7.1 billion.[20]

Marketing, sponsorships and criticisms

From 1972, R.J. Reynolds was a title sponsor of the NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series, the NASCAR Winston Cup Series and until 1993, the IMSA Camel GT for sportscars.

The NHRA sponsorship lasted up to 2001, before a new governing rule stated the Master Settlement Agreement, restricting R.J. Reynolds to one sponsorship of a sporting event; as a result, they chose NASCAR, which lasted up to 2003.

The Lotus Formula One team was sponsored by Camel from 1987 until 1990.

RJR brand Winston was a sponsor of the 1982 FIFA World Cup whilst fellow brand Camel was a sponsor of the 1986 FIFA World Cup. [2]

Joe Camel

In 1987, RJR resurrected the mascot for their Camel brand of cigarette, Joe Camel. Joe Camel, an anthropomorphic cartoon camel wearing sunglasses, was claimed to be a ploy to entice and interest the underaged in smoking. R.J. Reynolds maintained that Joe's "smooth character" was meant only to appeal to adult smokers.

This criticism was reinforced by a 1991 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association [21] showing that more children 5 and 6 years old could recognize Joe Camel than could recognize Mickey Mouse or Fred Flintstone (coincidentally, Fred Flintstone was also once used to sell R.J. Reynolds' Winston cigarettes) and alleged that the Joe Camel ad campaign was targeting children, despite R.J. Reynolds' contention that the campaign had been researched only among adults and was directed only at the smokers of other brands. In response to this criticism, RJR instituted "Let's Clear the Air on Smoking," a campaign of full-page advertisements consisting entirely of large type text, which denied the charges and declared that smoking is "an adult custom."

In late 2005, R.J. Reynolds opened the Marshall McGearty Lounge in the Wicker Park neighborhood of Chicago as part of a marketing strategy to promote a brand of "superpremium" cigarettes and counteract local smoking bans in restaurants and cafes that took effect in 2006. The lounge, which offers thirteen varieties of exclusive "hand-crafted" cigarette, along with alcohol and "light food", has been "well received" in the neighborhood and by the targeted upscale market, according to company officials. The lounge has since been closed due to Chicago indoor smoking restrictions.

The company planned to open a second location in Winston-Salem in the summer of 2007, but scrapped those plans within weeks of opening, citing the increasing number of smoking restrictions in public places by state and local governments.[22]


Reese vs. Reynolds

In May 2011 a Miami-Dade Circuit jury awarded Julie Reese, an 82-year-old Cape Coral smoker represented by The Ferraro Law Firm, a total verdict of $1 million from R.J. Reynolds Tobacco, after she developed laryngeal cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The jury found Reynolds to be negligent, guilty of fraud by concealment and fraud conspiracy, and guilty of placing a defective product on the market.[23][24]


R.J. Reynolds brands include Camel, Kool, Winston, Salem, Doral, Eclipse,and Pall Mall. Brands still manufactured but no longer receiving significant marketing support include Barclay, Belair, Capri, Carlton, GPC, Lucky Strike, Misty, Monarch, More, Now, Tareyton, Vantage, and Viceroy. The company also manufactures certain private-label brands. Five of the company's brands are among the top ten best selling cigarette brands in the United States, and it is estimated that one in three cigarettes sold in the country were manufactured by R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company. In 2010 R.J. Reynolds acquired the rights to the smokeless tobacco products Kodiak and Grizzly dip.


In 1990, RJ Reynolds planned to launch a new cigarette brand called Uptown, aimed primarily at African-Americans. To appeal to blacks seeking a less pronounced menthol taste (similar to Lorillard's Newport, which was gaining share), Reynolds decided against using green on the packaging, and instead used black and gold, the colors of luxury European cigarettes.[25]

Narrowing the marketing further, Uptown cigarettes were to be packed with filters facing down, the reverse of the usual arrangement . Market research indicated that many blacks open packs from the bottom, possibly to avoid crushing the filters.[25] It was later discovered that cigarette packs were opened from the bottom for a different reason: "This phenomenon traces back at least to World War II, when cigarettes were a valued commodity among soldiers. Often a soldier temporarily without cigarettes and without funds would bum a smoke from a fellow soldier. It was impolite to refuse such a request. However, there were two occasions when a refusal was not considered impolite: if there was only one cigarette left in the pack and if the pack was not yet opened. A pack opened from the bottom and resting, as it normally did, in a shirt pocket would appear unopened. Therefore the soldier in possession of cigarettes would be able to avoid having to give too many away."[26]

The promotional blitz was scheduled to begin on Feb 5 and Philadelphia was selected as the test market because of its large black population. Before it began, the campaign came under fire from religious, health and black-interest groups who expressed concerns about promoting cigarette smoking to blacks.[27]

On January 19, 1990, Reynolds abruptly decided to cancel the cigarette, saying that the test marketing would no longer be reliable because of what it called, "the unfair and biased attention that brand has received."[27]


The company's headquarters were located in the Reynolds Building in Winston-Salem for more than fifty years. Built in 1929, the 21-story building was designed by the same architects (Shreve & Lamb) who later designed the Empire State Building in New York City.[28][29]

Built in 1961 at a cost of $32 million ($254 million in 2015 dollars), the Whitaker Park plant had 790,300 square feet of manufacturing space and was considered "the world's largest and most modern cigarette-manufacturing plant".[30] It was announced in May 2010 that cigarette manufacturing would cease at Whitaker Park; by mid-2011, this had been done. Manufacturing formerly performed at the Whitaker Park plant was consolidated in the more-modern Tobaccoville plant. On January 7, 2015, Reynolds announced that Whitaker Park was being donated to Whitaker Park Development Authority Inc., started in April 2011 by Winston-Salem Business Inc., the Winston-Salem Alliance and Wake Forest University.[30]

In September 1977, R.J. Reynolds Industries moved the first of 1200 headquarters employees into the not-yet-completed, $40 million, 519,000-square-foot glass and steel World Headquarters Building being built across Reynolds Boulevard from the Whitaker Park plant. At the same time, the company had plans for a new skyscraper downtown.[31][32][33][34][35]

The current headquarters, the RJR Plaza Building, is 16 stories tall and was completed in 1982 adjacent to the original 1929 Reynolds Building.[36] The tobacco company moved its headquarters to RJR Plaza in 1982, and the 1929 building continued to be used for some company offices until 2009;[37] the older building currently stands vacant[38] but new owners in 2014 plan to convert it to a hotel.[39]

With the parent company (renamed RJR Nabisco in 1985 after merging with Nabisco) planning to move its headquarters to Atlanta in September 1987, the company donated the World Headquarters Building to Wake Forest University in January 1987, and in July of that year, the company voted to move its Planters-Life Savers division to one-third of that building.[32][33] In 2010, the building's tenants were Aon Corporation, BB&T, and PepsiCo.[35] On November 1 of that year, Pepsi announced 195 new jobs and a $7.5 million expansion of University Corporate Center, with BB&T moving two of its operations to Reynolda Business Center.[40] Aon and Pepsi remained the primary occupants in 2015.[41]

File:Reynolds Building WS.JPG
Reynolds Building In Downtown Winston-Salem, NC

R.J. Reynolds' largest plant, Tobaccoville, a 2 million square foot (190,000 m²) facility constructed in 1986, is located in the town of Tobaccoville, North Carolina near Winston-Salem.

Macon manufacturing, located in Macon, Ga., resides in a 1.4 million square foot (130,000 m²) facility built in 1974. This manufacturing plant was formerly known as Brown & Williamson, which was purchased by Reynolds and eventually closed in 2006.

R.J. Reynolds has a tobacco-sheet manufacturing operation in Winston-Salem. The sheet manufacturing operation in Chester, Va. was closed in 2006. Also, there are leaf operations in Wilson, N.C.; tobacco-storage facilities in Blacksburg, S.C. and Richmond, Va.; and a significant research-and-development facility in Winston-Salem.

A manufacturing plant in Puerto Rico was closed in 2010.

Among these facilities, R.J. Reynolds employs approximately 6,800 people.

R.J. Reynolds' subsidiary R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Foreign Sales Corporation is established in the British Virgin Islands to minimize its tax liability.

See also


  1. ^ a b Frank Tursi, Susan E. White and Steve McQuilkin (1999). "In the Belly of the Beast". Winston-Salem Journal. 
  2. ^ "Who We Are". Reynolds American. 2010. Retrieved 30 May 2010. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Tursi, Frank (1994). Winston-Salem: A History. John F. Blair, publisher. pp. 110–11, 184, 196–197. 
  4. ^ Burrough, Bryan (2003). Barbarians at the Gate. HarperCollins. p. 40. 
  5. ^ Debbie Norton (February 22, 1984). "Reynolds to spin off Sea-Land". Star-News. 
  6. ^ a b c "A Stock History – Sequence of Events" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-03-23. 
  7. ^ Burrough, Bryan; John Helyar (2003). Barbarians at the Gate: The Fall of RJR Nabisco. New York: HarperCollins. p. 592. ISBN 0-06-165554-6. Retrieved 27 June 2010. 
  8. ^ "The high cost of parting ways with CEOs". CBC News. 9 June 2009. Retrieved 27 June 2010. [dead link]
  9. ^ Mike Billips (24 July 1998). "Sons mind moguls' money". Atlanta Business Chronicle. Retrieved 27 June 2010. 
  10. ^ Hilts, Philip J. (April 15, 1994). "Tobacco Chiefs Say Cigarettes Aren't Addictive". The New York Times. 
  11. ^ "BBC: Tobacco companies tell kids: 'Don't smoke!'". Retrieved 2008-06-14. 
  12. ^ Helena Keers, "RJ Reynolds faces third EU suit" (November 1, 2002). Telegraph.
  13. ^ "R.J. Reynolds wins dismissal of European Community's RICO claims" (March 2011). Jones Day.
  14. ^ Henry Weinstein and Myron Levin, "R.J. Reynolds Accused Of Black Market Deals" (October 31, 2002). Los Angeles Times.
  15. ^ Tracey A. Basler, "Cigarettes, Smuggling, and Terror: The European Community v. RJ Reynolds" (2004). 4 JICL 3.
  16. ^ "Senior exec won't go to jail in massive fraud case", CBC News, May 4, 2006
  17. ^ Collins, Kristin. "Farm union targets RJR." News & Observer. October 27, 2007.
  18. ^ [1] "RJ Reynolds Closing Plant"
  19. ^ Reynolds American to Buy Lorillard in $27.4 Billion Tobacco Deal
  20. ^ Mangan, Dan (July 15, 2014). "Feeling blu? E-cig company spun off in major tobacco deal". CNBC. 
  21. ^ Fischer PM, Schwartz MP, Richards JW Jr, Goldstein AO, Rojas TH. Brand logo recognition by children aged 3 to 6 years. Mickey Mouse and Old Joe the Camel. JAMA. 1991 Dec 11;266(22):3145-8. PMID 1956101
  22. ^ "RJR drops plan for downtown smoking lounge", Winston-Salem Journal, June 9, 2007
  23. ^ "Smoker wins nearly $1 million award from R.J Reynolds". The Ferraro Law Firm. May 23, 2011. Retrieved 2011-05-28. 
  24. ^ The Street: Reynolds Liable for Damages in Smoker Case
  25. ^ a b Ramirez, Anthony (1990-01-12). "A Cigarette Campaign Under Fire". The New York Times. 
  26. ^ "Mystery of the Bottom-Opened Cigarette Pack". The New York Times. 1990-01-31. 
  27. ^ a b
  28. ^ "Reynolds Building, Winston-Salem". Retrieved 2009-12-03. 
  29. ^ Craver, Richard (2008-10-06). "R.J. Reynolds Tobacco to move out of historic building". Winston-Salem Journal. Retrieved 2009-12-03. [dead link]
  30. ^ a b Craver, Richard (2015-01-08). "Iconic Whitaker Park donated to nonprofit". Winston-Salem Journal. p. A1. 
  31. ^ "RJR Moving Into New Headquarters," Twin City Sentinel, September 14, 1977.
  32. ^ a b John Cleghorn, "RJR's Farewell Present: Division Moving to Winston-Salem," The Charlotte Observer, July 17, 1987.
  33. ^ a b "Wake Forest Debates Use of RJR Gift," The Charlotte Observer, February 7, 1987.
  34. ^ "RJR Nabisco Plans to Move". The New York Times. 1987-01-16. Retrieved 2012-03-20. 
  35. ^ a b Richard Craver, "For use: a lot of empty space," Winston-Salem Journal, May 30, 2010.
  36. ^ "RJR Plaza Building". Retrieved 2009-12-03. 
  37. ^ Craver, Richard (2009-11-23). "Home of RJR on the market". Winston-Salem Journal. Retrieved 2009-11-23. 
  38. ^ "R.J. Reynolds Tobacco to move out of historic building". The Winston-Salem Journal. 2008-10-06. Retrieved 2012-03-27. 
  39. ^ Craver, Richard (2014-05-22). "Former R.J. Reynolds headquarters sold for $7.8 million". Winston-Salem Journal. Retrieved 2014-05-22. 
  40. ^ Craver, Richard (2010-12-12). "Wake asks help of city". Winston-Salem Journal. p. A6. 
  41. ^ Craver, Richard (2015-01-08). "Philanthropy stretches across city's landscape". Winston-Salem Journal. p. A1. 


  • Collins, Kristin. "Farm union targets RJR." News & Observer. October 27, 2007.

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