Legal Business Blogs

BAT general counsel Belhomme steps down as cigarette giant instructs HSF on plain packaging challenge

As the cigarette giant prepares its latest challenge against plain packaging, British American Tobacco’s (BAT) high profile regional general counsel for western Europe, Benoit Belhomme (pictured) has retired.

Belhomme retires as BAT, alongside other tobacco firms, brings a legal challenge in the European Court of Justice against the revised EU Tobacco Products Directive, also known as TPD2, which was adopted in May 2014 but has been delayed by a series of court cases.

BAT has instructed Herbert Smith Freehills, while Phillip Morris has instructed Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom in the ECJ against the revised EU Tobacco Products Directive that could increase the cheapest packs of cigarettes by 70p. The case will be decided on 4 May.

Belhomme leaves BAT after nearly 25 years where he oversaw major legal issues for the company such as plain packaging and including a dispute with HM Revenue & Customs which led to BAT being fined £650,000 for oversupplying cigarettes to Belgium.

Featured in the GC Power List 2015: The Team Elite, corporate lawyer Belhomme is lauded for shaping BAT’s legal team across western Europe, which houses roughly 300 lawyers, including the London team which covers litigation, regulation and legislation, excise laws, high value commercial transactions, IP and competition.

Having started out in the Paris office of Clifford Chance, Belhomme spent six years working at the firm when he was approached by Rothmans International in late 1991, a British tobacco manufacturer and owner of brands including Benson & Hedges, Dunhill and Pall Mall.

In 1999 Rothmans merged with BAT, creating a tobacco giant worth £13bn and Belhomme was appointed as regional GC for Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EEMEA). He spent 12 years in that role before taking the position as regional GC for western Europe in October 2011 – although he maintains that some of his most notable career highlights occurred during his previous GC role.

For more on BAT’s former general counsel see: The Client profile: Benoit Belhomme, British American Tobacco