Philip Morris turns to Kraft as general counsel resigns

International cigarette and tobacco company Philip Morris International has appointed Kraft Foods general counsel Marc Firestone to head its legal department as current general counsel David Bernick resigns.

Firestone has been the executive vice president, corporate and legal affairs and general counsel of Kraft Foods since 2006. During his tenure, he oversaw the US food conglomerate’s £11.5bn takeover of British chocolate maker Cadbury in 2010 (19 January 2010).

It will not be the first time that Firestone has held a position at Philip Morris. He joined the tobacco giant in 1988 and assumed various senior roles, including senior vice president and general counsel, prior to joining Kraft Foods in 2003.

Kraft Foods has named Gerhad Pleuhs as Firestone’s replacement, effective from April. Pleuhs currently serves as deputy general counsel at Kraft.

A recent filing by Philip Morris to the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) showed that Bernick recently informed the company of his intention to resign effective from 30 June 2012.

PMI’s CEO Louis Camilleri stated in an internal announcement: “I regret to inform you that David has concluded that his ambitions would be best served by pursuing other attractive avenues available to him.

“I wish to take this opportunity to both acknowledge David’s accomplishments and thank him wholeheartedly for the significant value he has brought to Philip Morris since he joined us in March 2010. His contributions to the function he leads and to numerous Philip Morris strategic priorities, not least of which included the invaluable insights and creative work on our Next Generation Products, will endure for years to come.”

Prior to joining Philip Morris in March 2010, Bernick was a partner at Kirkland & Ellis, where he served for 31 years and was a member of the firm’s management committee for over 15 years. 

The document also indicated that Bernick will receive CHF4.1m (£2.8m) as his annual incentive compensation award for 2011. In addition, he will receive a payment of CHF1.45m (£1m) for agreeing to not compete with the company for 12 months.