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BAT appoints new legal chief following internal team overhaul

British American Tobacco (BAT) has appointed Irish lawyer Ronan Barry as its new legal chief to succeed incumbent Benoit Belhomme (pictured), following an internal shake-up of the company’s legal division.

In recent weeks Barry assumed the role as head of legal and external affairs, as well as regional general counsel for Europe.

Having previously served as head of corporate and regulatory affairs for Western Europe, his appointment to legal was made after the company carried out an internal consolidation of both the legal and regulatory/compliance parts of the business.

The exercise saw the reduction of eight management roles across both divisions reduced to four.

Barry has been with the cigarette major since 2006 when he started as legal and corporate affairs manager for Ireland. Having succeeded Belhomme, Barry will be predominantly based in Brussels.

In April news emerged that BAT’s high profile Europe GC Belhomme had retired after nearly 25 years. During his tenure he oversaw major legal issues for the company including its ongoing plain packaging dispute with governments and its issues with HM Revenue & Customs, which led to BAT being fined £650,000 for oversupplying cigarettes to Belgium.

The reshuffling of the in-house legal division also follows BAT’s announcement that it intends to appeal the recent decision by the High Court rejecting its attempt to overturn UK legislation introducing plain packaging for tobacco products. Handed down last month (19 May) BAT, alongside other cigarette majors including Philip Morris and JT International, said the decision is ‘by no means the final word on the lawfulness of plain packaging…and the judgment, if left to stand, should also raise real concerns for many other legitimate businesses as it creates a worrying precedent whereby public policy concerns can ride roughshod over long established fundamental commercial rights.’

Herbert Smith Freehills is advising BAT while Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom is instructed by Philip Morris.