Imperial hires man blocked from L&G job

The senior accountant blocked from taking the finance director role at Legal & General this summer will instead run the numbers at the tobacco giant behind Cohiba cigars and Rizla rolling paper.

Imperial Tobacco yesterday said KPMG's former UK audit boss and vice chairman, Oliver Tant, will take on its top finance job. Self styled on Twitter as an "innovator", "talent spotter", and "apple farmer", Mr Tant takes over from Bob Dyrbus at Europe's second-biggest tobacco company.

Mr Tant hit the headlines this year after the Prudential Regulation Authority effectively barred him from L&G's year-long hunt for a finance chief. The newly formed regulator was worried he did not have sufficient experience in the insurance market, a key criterion for the industry in the wake of the financial crisis.

At the same time, Mr Tant walked away from KPMG, having earlier failed in his tilt to succeed John Griffith-Jones as head of the Big Four accountant. Simon Collins pipped Mr Tant to the post after the latter was said to have faltered in a question-and-answer session hosted by the ITV business editor Laura Kuenssberg in front of several hundred partners.

Mr Tant joins Imperial next month at a crucial time for the company, which also makes Lambert & Butler and Embassy cigarettes and Golden Virginia rolling tobacco. It is undertaking what chief executive Alison Cooper has described as a "strategic transition" against the backdrop of weakened European markets. This involves cutting costs and developing electronic cigarettes.

Imperial has also been hit by smokers in debt-laden southern European countries turning to cheaper fake cigarettes that have been brought across their borders by smugglers. In August, Imperial confirmed that sale volumes for the first nine months of its financial year were down by 7 per cent.

Imperial chairman Iain Napier said of Mr Tant: "He joins us with a proven track record of driving high performance to maximise value and has extensive corporate finance and financial management expertise.

"As we continue our strategic transition, it's important that we have someone of Oliver's calibre to lead the finance team in supporting the sustainable growth of the business."

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