The company's namesake Philip Morris was born in Whitechapel, United Kingdom in 1835, the son of a recent immigrant from Germany who had taken the name Bernard Morris. In 1847, the family opened a shop in London. The first cigarettes that Philip Morris made were in 1854 and were known as "Philip Morris English Ovals," a non-filter brand of oval-shaped cigarettes that were manufactured in very limited quantities until discontinuation in 2017.
In 1902, Philip Morris & Co. Ltd. was incorporated in New York City. George J. Whelan bought the American division of the company in 1919 and created Philip Morris & Co. Ltd., Inc., along with fellow shareholders Reuben M. Ellis and Leonard B. McKitterick.
In 1929, the company made its first cigarettes in Richmond, using an existing factory the company purchased. In 1933, this factory was racially integrated more than 30 years before the law required it. In 1938, the company offered preferred stock to ordinary buyers.
In 1924, Philip Morris began advertising Marlboros specifically to women. The cigarettes had "new cork-tip filters housed in a flip-top box with a red roof design."
In 1933, the company and its advertising agency, Milton Biow, searched for a "living trademark" to represent their brand, and chose Johnny Roventini, a midget bellhop at the Hotel New Yorker. Roventini called out the catchphrase "Call for Philip Morris!" in live appearances, and on the radio. The Philip Morris-backed radio programs, including, It Pays to Be Ignorant, The Kate Smith Show and This Is Your Life, all began with the phrase "Johnny presents", and Roventini's "Call for Philip Morris!"
From 1951 to 1955, Philip Morris sponsored the CBS sitcom "I Love Lucy", with Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz pitching the product often, and Philip Morris controlling the content of the program. In 1955, Philip Morris became an alternate sponsor with Procter & Gamble, eventually bowing out altogether by the end of that year.
In 1970, Philip Morris made the first of several acquisitions with the purchase of Miller Brewing Company. In 1985, Philip Morris Companies Inc. became a holding company and the parent of Philip Morris Inc. and bought General Foods. The acquisition of Kraft Foods came in 1988, after which Kraft and General Foods became Kraft General Foods.
Although it had begun investing in the homebuilder by 1969, Philip Morris purchased Southern California's Mission Viejo Company in its entirety for $52 million during 1972. Philip Morris continued to hold on to this investment until 1997, finally selling the division off to J.F. Shea Company.
In the 1970s, in response to smokers’ health concerns, Philip Morris introduced the “Light” cigarette - which was later found to be no safer than any others.
In 1976, Marlboro became the leading brand in the U.S.; Morris operated as the largest seller of tobacco in the U.S. and the second-largest in the world.
In 2001, Kraft Foods launched an initial public offering (IPO) for 11.1% of the company that took in $8.7 billion, making it the second-largest IPO in American history at the time.
On January 27, 2003, Philip Morris Companies Inc. changed its name to Altria Group, Inc. Even under this new name, Altria continues to own 100% of Philip Morris USA (abbreviated PM USA).
In the fall of 2003, Philip Morris USA moved its headquarters from New York City to Richmond, Virginia. On March 30, 2007, the remaining 88.9% stake in Kraft Foods was spun off to shareholders. Philip Morris International was split from Philip Morris USA in March 2008. This has caused a drop in the needed cigarette production due to no need for export product. Philip Morris shut down its Concord, North Carolina, manufacturing facility in 2010 and moved all domestic production to Richmond, which now contains the largest Philip Morris plant in the world, producing 146 billion cigarettes in 2010.
In 2009, Philip Morris dropped the use of “Light” after many felt the word misrepresented the products as a healthier cigarette.
Philip Morris USA brands include Marlboro, Virginia Slims, Benson & Hedges, Merit, Parliament, Alpine, Basic, Cambridge, Bucks, Dave's, Chesterfield , Collector's Choice, Commander, Lark, L&M, Players. As of the 27 of December, 2018, Philip Morris also owns a minority stake in JUUL.
- Philip Morris International
- Tobacco industry
- Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement
- Marlboro Friday
- Johnny Roventini (spokesperson & "living trademark")
- Racketeering ( U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler found the company and parent company Altria guilty of the crime in 2006)
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- "CNN.com - Judge finds tobacco racketeering - Aug 17, 2006". CNN.
- Bartz, Diane (2011-06-01). "U.S. judge declines to shut tobacco racketeering case". Reuters.
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