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Juul is paying cold cash to ease the harsh throat-burn of selling out to Big Tobacco

A company that likes to talk about being a smoking cessation tool just sold 35% to the Marlboro Man. Can cash ease the angst?

Juul is paying cold cash to ease the harsh throat-burn of selling out to Big Tobacco
[Photo: Flickr user Sodanie Chea]
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Juul appears to be using hard cash to quiet angst among its employees who are upset that their company has just sold 35% of itself to Altria, the owner of the Marlboro brand. And there are signs that some of Juul’s existing investors are none too happy about the deal either.

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Reports Thursday said Juul is paying about $2 billion out to its employees in the wake of the Altria investment. That works out to about $1.3 million to each of its 1,500 employees. In a Fast Company interview in November, Juul talked about itself as a kind of humanitarian cause, providing an alternative to adults addicted to cigarettes. The company had even hoped for an investment from an organization like the Gates Foundation. When Juul’s management finally decided to go to a cigarette conglomerate for its big investment, some of its employees were naturally upset.

Juul is paying a dividend of $150 per share to its investors as part of the arrangement, reports Recode. The report says Juul shareholders will be paid a collective $1.6 billion in cash, and that money comes out of the $12.8 billion Altria invested in exchange for the 35% share.

We reached out to Juul for comment and will update if we hear back.

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Juul was valued at $16 billion last summer, but with the new investment the vape champion is valued at $38 billion.

Recode points out that of the $12.8 billion Altria invested, less than $8.8 billion of it is actually finding its way to Juul’s balance sheet after the employee and investor payouts.

Juul does provide an effective alternative to smoking for adults. But the healthcare community is still dubious of vaping because the long-term effects of vaping remain unknown. Meanwhile, Juul has become so popular with teenagers that the Surgeon General is calling it an epidemic.

About the author

Fast Company Senior Writer Mark Sullivan covers emerging technology, politics, artificial intelligence, large tech companies, and misinformation. An award-winning San Francisco-based journalist, Sullivan's work has appeared in Wired, Al Jazeera, CNN, ABC News, CNET, and many others.

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