Hamish Maxwell

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This article is part of the Tobacco portal on Sourcewatch funded from 2006 - 2009 by the American Legacy Foundation.

Hamish Walter Hyslop Maxwell (whose name is pronouned "HAY-mish") was President of Philip Morris circa 1984. He took over at time of the Rose Defrancesco Cipollone lawsuit. He "cleaned house" and carried company into a strong defensive position.


Hamish Maxwell was born in Liverpool, England and was educated at Cambridge University in the UK, completing his BA in 1964, at the end of World War II. His father was Sir Alexander ('Sandy') Maxwell (KCMG), who headed a British tobacco importing company, served as Britain's Tobacco Controller during World War II, and was at the head of the cigarette industry's Tobacco Manufacturers Research Committee (TMRC) and its later Tobacco Advisory Council (TAC) until the early 1960s . Cigarettes were always around Maxwell's house, and by 1984 Hamish Maxwell smoked two packs a day.

He joined Philip Morris as an advertising executive (looking after radio and TV spots) in 1954, the year after Joseph Cullman 3rd rose to the top of the company, and he was soon moved into Philip Morris International and put to work trouble-shooting in Europe and Asia as the company expanded its overseas businesses. Maxwell was president of the Philip Morris International unit for five years prior to being named to succeed George Weissman as President of PM in New York.[1] In 1984 he was elected Chairman of the Board of Directors of PM and became CEO.[2] then formally took over as President and CEO of Philip Morris Companies, Inc. on August 1, 1984.[3]

Overview Timeline

Remember people at Philip Morris often held more than one title simultaneously.

1926 Aug 24 born in Liverpool, England to Sir Alexander Maxwell, a CEO of a tobacco-buying company, who controlled tobacco imports during the war.
1944 - 47 At Cambridge Uni until 1946 (BA), in the RAF training reserve until 1947
1948 ?? Joined Thomas Cook & Sons travel company
1969 Philip Morris begins diversifying under the Cullman family: bought Miller Brewing Company
1978 Second stage of PM diversification, buying 7-Up
1952 Maxwell was first employed in US tobacco industry as a salesman for tobacco leaf in Virginia (probably not PM) [4]
1954 Maxwell was first employed by PM as a leaf salesman in Richmond.This was the year that Philip Morris repositioned Marlboro as a general filter cigarette rather than a woman's cigarette,
1955 Maxwell transferred to the Market Research Department at Philip Morris's corporate headquarters in New York.
1956He joined the Advertising Department in New York dealing with the purchase of radio advertising spots.
1959 In charge of advertising budgets and marketing. Company then sixth in US in brand marketing and advertising with a special interest in TV ads (Dobie Gillis show)
1961 Joins the new Philip Morris International as Director of Advertising.
1963 Dec Maxwell, Weissman and Dawson purchase the FTR operation in Switzerland. (to establish a European base)
1964 Vice President of the PMI division in charge of Marketing (still in New York)
1965-73Regional VP Asia/Pacific.
1968 >> Geoff Bible joins Philip Morris Europe as Manager of Finance under Maxwell
1969 Vice President of Philip Morris - New York. Resident in Geneva,
1970 Bible passes his Financial Management position at Philip Morris Europe over to his friend Bill Murray and he joins David Morse at the International Labor Organisation ILO. Morse later becomes a major lobbyist for Philip Morris under Maxwell, Murray and Bible. Bill Murray joins Philip Morris Europe as Manager of Finance (taking over Bible's job).
1972Maxwell and Murray are transferred to New York. Maxwell was briefly resident in Melbourne, Australia as the VP of PM Asia-Pacific. PM Australia was Philip Morris's first full subsidiary. Maxwell hires Andrew Whist, who he later shifted to New York as the tobacco industry's main strategist.
1973 Executive VP, Canadian and Asia/pacific Regions
1974 Member of the main PM Board (Murray is managing both B&H in Canada and European operations)
1975 Senior Vice President (No 8 in hierarchy) Philip Morris Companies now had tobacco subsidiaries in Canada (B&H) England, Australia, Belgium Venezuela, Guatamal, Peru, and Switzerland
1976-78 >> Bible rejoins Philip Morris as Director of Corporate Planning (based in Switzerland)
1978 Nov 1 Executive VP and president of PM International. Bible is now shifted to New York and the triumvirate is reestablished. Rupert Murdoch is enlisted as favoured media proprietor,
1982 Jun Maxwell deals with Rupert Murdoch: Murdoch joins Philip Morris board, Maxwell joins News Ltd board [5]
1983 Nov President and Chief Operating Officer of the group (PM Group had various names) [6]
1984 Apr Maxwell now Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of the Philip Morris Companies Inc. (The Group) [7]
1985 Mar 27 Maxwell's memo to his executives "How can we change the public's view towards smoking" kicks off serious disinformation and bribery programs. [8]
1985 Aug Company restructure. PM under Maxwell paid $5.7 billion for General Foods in September.
1988 PM acquired Kraft, the maker of dairy and other food products, for $13.1 billion.
1990 PM acquired Jacobs Schard for $4 billion
1991 Maxwell stands down in favour of Murray as Chairman and CEO, but stays in the executive loop as Emeritus Chairman.
1994 June Maxwell, Murray and Bible force Michael Miles out and effectively take control of the company.
2002 PM sold Miller Beer to South African Breweries.
2003 Philip Morris changed its name to the Altria Group.
2014 Apr 21 Maxwell died at age 87 of bladder cancer

Maxwell's Power Base

Maxwell, as a Scot from the UK had to battle against rival executives from Canada (the Cullman family) and the USA. He largely succeeded because he was part of a team with an international outlook, rather than purely focussed on the American business.

While based in Switzerland, he had acquired two Australian 'deputies': R William Murray also known as "Bill Murray" and Geoff Bible. These two climbed the corporate ladder of Philip Morris directly behind him, successively moving into positions as CEOs of the International division, then to New York, then as top executives in the overall company, then to CEO and Chair positions. This was a mutual-supportive triumvirate who eventually dominated Philip Morris, at a time when Philip Morris dominated the global tobacco industry.

They brought along with them Andrew Whist a Norwegian-Australian dissembler who ran the major corporate scams under the executive control of this triumvirate through heading the Philip Morris Corporate Affairs division. And he brought into the industry Bryan Simpson, a nephew-by-marriage of Rupert Murdoch (ex employee who had run Media Council of Australia, then the Tobacco Institute of Australia) to run the global tobacco lobby, INFOTAB. Simpson introduced Murdoch to Geoff Bible, which brought Rupert Murdoch into a key position on the Philip Morris board.

An American political aide: Craig L Fuller (a Republic aide to President Reagan and Chief of Staff to VP Bush) was brought into the company as head strategist, and he was followed by Steven C Parrish, a top lawyer from the tobacco-lawfirm Shook Hardy & Bacon. These two Americans became Senior Vice Presidents and took over management of various lobbying and misinformation divisions under various banners of 'Scientific', 'Corporate', or 'External Affairs' (PM's structure changed a number of times).

This group comprised the driving force which ran and directed the global tobacco industry under Maxwell's leadership for three decades. By 1984 Maxwell was 57 years old had been employed at Philip Morris for 30 years. He passed over the reins to Bill Murray and retired to head Martin Sorrell's conglomerate global public relations organisation known as the WPP Group Inc. [9] which provided the main background lobbying services to a number of industries (including tobacco) around the world. Sorrell had taken over and coordinated (but not merged) Ogilvy & Mather, Burson- Marsteller, Young & Rubicam, Cohn & Wolfe, Hill & Knowlton, JWT GRoup, (which themselves had gone through a merger frenzy and consolidated companies like APCO, Powell & Tate, Cassidy Group, etc.). They also added numerous national-PR/lobby firms in Africa, India, Asia, etc. into WPP (The corporate name 'WPP' was derived from a shelf company in the paper industry), and in the USA and UK they added a number of smaller lobby firms such as Quinn Gillespie & Associates, Timmons & Company, and Wexler & Walker and some advertising distribution networks like the Real Media Group and the Media Innovations Group.

They are now the largest of three major PR/lobbying/media/marketing corporations which dominate the media market in most western countries.

Corporate Myths

Philip Morris employed a number of spin-doctors who also massaged Maxwell's biography for American audiences. Most obviously was the myth of the "self-made man who rose from the ranks to head the world's most dominant food and tobacco conglomerate." As part of this story he was also credited as being "a Battle of Britain Spitfire pilot".

In the early 1950s, after studying history at Cambridge and serving in the Royal Air Force, Mr. Maxwell traveled to the United States as a tour agent with Thomas Cook & Sons, the British travel company. But he took a job at Philip Morris after his fiancée, Georgene Mathewson, insisted he get a better-paying job. He rose quickly through Philip Morris’s ranks, leading the company’s international division before leapfrogging several candidates to the chief executive spot."

The facts are:

  1. He was at Cambridge University during the war, and learned to fly as part of the Cambridge division of the RAF reserves. He was too young to be a pilot during the Battle of Britain and the Battle of Britain Historical Society confirms that he was not one "'of the 'Few' to receive the Battle of Britain Clasp, therefore he was not a fighter pilot in the Battle

    [Letter from the Society} "There is no record of Hamish Walter Hyslop Maxwell being one of the 'Few' or the recipient of the Clasp."

    This is not to say the claim was a lie, just that it was deliberately misleading. He may well have flown circuits and bumps at the Cambridge squadron base at Duxford toward the end of the war when obsolete Spitfires were housed there. Using the same phrasing, he could also have claimed to be "a First World War Tiger Moth pilot", since he probably trained on Tiger Moths.
  2. His father Sir Alexander (Sandy) Maxwell was a tobacco leaf importer (buying mainly from the USA), who had been Britain's Controller of Tobacco during Word War II. Both his father and grandfather were in the tobacco importing business, so he had long-standing family connections in Virginia. Philip Morris was, at that time, also a major importer of high-class British cigarettes (see the names: "Benson & Hedges", "Marlborough" "Barclays", etc.) [10] so he had a direct pipeline into the Philip Morris hierarchy.
  3. At the end of the war, his father was put in charge of generating the 'Visit Britain' tourist industry as a way of generating national income. So his stint roving the world with Thomas Cook & Sons, is not an example of a self-made man either.

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