Abelman becomes British American Tobacco’s new legal chief as part of management re-jig

British American Tobacco’s (BAT) group legal director and general counsel Neil Withington has quit the group, as it announces a wider leadership reshuffle.

Withington has headed up the group’s legal function and had a seat on its management board since 2000, after joining BAT Industries in 1993 as a senior M&A lawyer. His last day at the company will be on 30 April 2015. 

He is also retiring from Reynolds American Inc’s (RAI) board of directors, on which he’s held a spot since 2004, on 4 December 2014. BAT continues to hold a 42 per cent ownership stake in RAI. 

Withington’s exit coincides with a wider re-jig of BAT’s in-house legal team. Its legal and corporate function is set to integrate with its regulatory affairs team – both integrating under the leadership of BAT’s current assistant general counsel for corporate and commercial, Jerome Abelman. 

Abelman will take on the mantle of BAT’s group corporate and regulatory affairs director. Meanwhile, Kingsley Wheaton, who currently holds that post, is set to become BAT’s group managing director of next generation products. 

The group’s new legal chief Abelman will step into his new role on 1 January 2015. He has worked at BAT for 12 years, both in his current role and as regional general counsel for Asia Pacific. 

The head of BAT’s Nicoventures business, which develops e-cigarettes and nicotine inhalation products, Des Naughton, is also leaving the company as part of the reshuffle. 

Naughton, who has worked at the business for almost 20 years, is due to exit in February 2015. 

The departing general counsel Withington began his career at the Bar, working at St Johns Buildings Chambers in Manchester. He later moved to ICI, before making the move to BAT. 

BAT thanked both Withington and Naughton for all of their achievements during their time at the company.