Hey Juul Employees, What Are You Going to Do With Your Big Tobacco Riches?

Photo: Julio Cortez (AP)

Following news that Juul had secured a massive, nearly $13 billion deal with Big Tobacco, it was also revealed that staff of the vape company stood to receive bonuses potentially reaching in the multimillions.

A special $2 billion dividend was part of the $12.8 billion deal for Altria’s minority stake in Juul and was designated for the company’s roughly 1,500 global employees. If split equally, they would see more than $1 million each. But the Wall Street Journal reported Friday that’s not how it’ll work; instead, “employees will receive $150 for every share or restricted stock unit they own.”

Those hired within the past six months will receive payments based on the number of units that will have vested six months from the date they begin vesting. The payouts will come for some employees as early as Christmas.

On top of that, Juul is offering retention packages. Each employee will receive a special bonus, equal to four times his or her usual bonus, and paid out in four installments over the next two years. That could entice some staffers to stay despite misgivings about the startup’s new alliance with a tobacco company, one current employee said.

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Some employees who have been with the company since it spun off from Pax Labs in 2017 are looking at multimillion-dollar paydays, though, according to the Journal. That kind of money is nothing to sneeze at, even if the bonuses seem designed to quell internal discontent about the deal undermining Juul’s ethos.

The company’s chief executive Kevin Burns said in May that Juul’s mission was to “eliminate cigarette smoking throughout the world one smoker at a time.” After reports surfaced of Juul’s discussions with Altria, Juul employees reportedly characterized the stake as a “deal with the devil” and said it would defy the brand’s stated mission.

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But bloated bonuses seem to have calmed employee unease, at least to some degree, and the company appears to have sold the idea that the deal could build upon its mission to get adult smokers off of cigarettes. The Journal reported that at an all-hands meeting on Thursday, Juul employees “applauded when CEO Kevin Burns displayed a mock-up of a Juul promotion inserted into a pack of Marlboros—one of the marketing tools the startup now has at its disposal.”

That $2 billion in sellout money sure seems to be working its magic.

[Wall Street Journal]

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