Established in 1902, when the
United Kingdom's Imperial Tobacco Company and the
Company of the USA agreed to form a joint venture, the
British-American Tobacco Company Ltd. The parent companies agreed
not to trade in each other's domestic territory and to assign
trademarks, export businesses and overseas subsidiaries to the joint
venture. James 'Buck' Duke became its chairman. The British American
Tobacco business thus began life in countries as diverse as Canada,
China, Germany, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia, but not in
the United Kingdom or USA.
In 1911 the American Tobacco
Company sold its share of the company. Imperial Tobacco gradually
reduced its shareholding, but it was not until 1980 that it divested
its remaining interests in the company.
In 1976 the group companies
were reorgansied under a new holding company, B.A.T Industries. In
1994 BAT acquired its former parent, American Tobacco Company
(though reorganised after anti-trust proceedings). This brought the
Lucky Strike and Pall Mall brands into BAT's portfolio.
In 1999 it acquired Rothmans
International, which included a share in a factory in Burma. This
made it the target of criticism from human rights groups. It sold
its share of the factory on November 6, 2003 after an "exceptional
request" from the British government.
In 2003, BAT acquired Ente
Tabacchi Italiani (ETI) S.p.A, Italy's state tobacco company. The
important acquisition would elevate BAT to the number two position
in Italy, the second largest tobacco market in the European Union.
The scale of the enlarged operations would bring significant
opportunities to compete and grow ETI's local brands and BAT's
In January 2007, BAT closed
its remaining UK production plant in Southampton with the loss of
over 600 jobs. However, the global Research and Development
operation and some financial functions will continue on the site.
British American Tobacco also
reached prominance in 2002 for the McCabe v. British American
Tobacco Australia court case, which received international attention
through its revelations of document destruction by British American