In May 2022, Philip Morris International (PMI) submitted an offer to acquire Swedish Match AB, a European nicotine pouch manufacturer, for $16 billion. As an increasing number of companies that amassed their global presence through tobacco evolve along with a world that continues to smoke less, there is a high-stakes race for what smokeless products and cigarette alternatives will dominate the landscape in the future. PMI’s offer to acquire Swedish Match AB was a bold step ahead in that race.
Ignacio Salvarredi has helped enable that pivot at PMI since 2009 when he joined as counsel for the organization’s operations in Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, Bolivia, and Paraguay. He currently works in the litigation and investigations global team, based in New York, managing critical cases in various jurisdictions.
The past decade-plus has seen the greatest evolution in the tobacco industry, and Salvarredi has seen the transition from cigarettes to smoke-free products, which went from being a research and development project, to now being the present and future of the company.
“I witnessed that gradual transition into new products, and especially recall the 2016 letter to shareholders in which the company spelled out its intention to move beyond cigarettes,” Salvarredi says of PMI’s then-public declaration to focus on phasing out products that focus on burning tobacco. “We’re transitioning into new spaces, and it’s a very exciting time.”
That transition includes the pharma space, where PMI has already made in-roads. In late 2021, the company acquired Denmark-based Fertin Pharma, whose advanced oral delivery technologies will play a major role in PMI’s creation of new smokeless products. The acquisition is the latest of the company’s move into pharma and includes the acquisition of inhaled drug specialist OtiTopic along with a bid to acquire UK pharma company Vectura.
“As an in-house lawyer at PMI, this evolution has been incredibly interesting,” Salvarredi says. “It just proves that to be effective as in-house counsel, you need to be willing to learn and not be afraid to be flexible and adaptable, because your role and focus change constantly. I’ve moved from product liability to advising the company on deployment of new products, as we continue this transition into new spaces.”
Salvarredi credits his willingness to be fearless with a trainee program offered at his first firm, Marval O’Farrell & Mairal in Argentina. The lawyer was moved every six months to a new team, helping him become more familiar with every part of the law in which he might someday interact. In fact, one of the companies he did work for back then was PMI, as a litigator.
“That program taught me to not fear change,” Salvarredi explains. “It taught me new skills and the importance of adaptability. Being in-house requires different skills day in and day out, and I think that’s only going to increase as companies continue to adapt to fast-changing business landscapes. I’m thankful every time I think of that trainee program.”
At PMI, one of Salvarredi’s proudest accomplishments has been the establishment of an official pro bono program for the legal department. He says pro bono efforts were much more non-systematic in the past, and the creation of a pro bono committee, and a formal program, should provide direction, focus, and accountability for PMI’s efforts that aren’t always focused on a bottom line.
“We wanted to be able to track everything that we do in pro bono,” Salvarredi says. “We created a framework in November 2021 and are moving ahead this year with concrete projects. I’m incredibly proud of this company and our general counsel for backing this initiative. I think it speaks to the PMI’s culture of transformation and doing the right thing.”
Culture is an important component of what has kept Salvarredi at PMI. The leader says that the company is a true reflection of its global operations and markets in which it operates. Respect for others is fundamental at PMI and its leadership.
“This can be a difficult job at times, but I think making sure everyone is treated equally and respectfully, and that people’s work is valued, is incredibly important,” Salvarredi says. “The leaders that inspired me most were the ones who listened to all members of the team and were open to their contributions. I think that human side of leadership is critical, especially when you’re constantly working with people in different parts of the world, and from a wide variety of cultures.”
It’s no wonder that Salvarredi sits on the board of the European Justice Forum on behalf of PMI. The coalition of businesses, individuals, and organizations works to promote fair, balanced, transparent, and efficient civil justice laws and systems throughout Europe. For Salvarredi, it’s a chance to continually help his organization be part of a more equitable world.
Shook Hardy and Bacon LLP:
“What sets Ignacio apart is his ability to unite lawyers from multiple law firms, based in numerous countries, and with different perspectives into a single team to achieve a common goal in litigation.”
–John Lyons, Partner