Juul workers get $2 billion bonus from tobacco giant investment

By Kate Gibson

/ MoneyWatch

Surgeon General on teen vaping "epidemic"

Juul Labs will soon have some newly anointed millionaires among its ranks. The vape company reportedly intends to reward its roughly 1,500 workers to the tune of $2 billion as the result of Altria's purchase of a 35 percent stake in Juul in a $12.5 billion deal announced Thursday.

2 billion divided by 1,500?

If evenly divided, each worker would get about $1.3 million, but the bonus won't be allocated that way, according to people familiar with the deal. The amount individuals receive will depend on how long they've been with the company and how much stock they hold, these people said.

The deal values Juul at $38 billion, making it one of the most highly valued startups in Silicon Valley, according to Bloomberg, which also cited a person familiar with the matter in reporting on the bonus plan.

The payouts should come as early as Christmas, reported the Wall Street Journal. The newspaper added that Juul is also offering retention packages that could convince some to stay despite its new pact with Big Tobacco.

Strange bedfellows

In a statement announcing the deal, Juul CEO Kevin Burns acknowledged the apparent disconnect in an accord with the Marlboro maker and a startup with a stated mission of helping people kick the nicotine habit, calling Altria "an unlikely — and seemingly counterintuitive — investor."

Juul was swayed, however, that the partnership could help "accelerate our success switching adult smokers," he added.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is ramping up efforts to restrict the sale of flavored e-cigarettes, which appeal largely to children.

Altria also made a $1.8 billion investment in Canadian cannabis company Cronos Group this month as smokers increasingly turn to alternatives to tobacco cigarettes.

First published on December 21, 2018

© 2018 CBS Interactive Inc.. All Rights Reserved.

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