By Jennifer Maloney
Juul Labs Inc. is bringing over a second high-ranking executive from Marlboro maker Altria Group Inc. as the vaping startup attempts to repair its damaged relationship with regulators amid a rise in teen vaping.
Joe Murillo, who headed regulatory affairs for Altria and previously ran the tobacco company's e-cigarette business, is now Juul's chief regulatory officer, according to an internal memo sent Tuesday to staff.
Most important, the 24-year Altria veteran will shepherd the applications that Juul must submit by May to the Food and Drug Administration for any products it wants to keep on the market beyond that point.
Mr. Murillo is the first big hire made by Juul's new chief executive, K.C. Crosthwaite, who himself moved over from Altria last week to take the helm of the startup. Juul faces a proposed U.S. ban on most of its products, and cited the need to focus on regulatory matters for the leadership shift.
Altria last year invested $12.8 billion for a 35% stake in Juul. The deal gave the tobacco giant seats on Juul's board that are pending an antitrust review. Mr. Crosthwaite last week told his new staff that his appointment wasn't a sign that the Marlboro maker was taking over.
Juul is combining its scientific and clinical affairs with regulatory affairs under Mr. Murillo. Mr. Murillo understands well the FDA application process that Juul must navigate and will help Juul work with regulators and policy makers to earn their trust, Mr. Crosthwaite said in a statement.
"We invite an open dialogue, will listen to others and will be responsive to their concerns," he added.
Blamed for a surge in youth vaping, Juul is the subject of several investigations, including a criminal probe by federal prosecutors in California, The Wall Street Journal recently reported. The San Francisco company also faces investigations by the FDA and Federal Trade Commission into its marketing practices.
Juul has tried over the past year to position itself as a responsible actor. It overhauled its marketing, halted retail-store sales of its fruity-flavored products that are appealing to young people and introduced a checkout system to curb illegal sales to minors. But Juul's deal with Altria, and its intense White House lobbying, angered officials at the FDA.
A lawyer by training, Mr. Murillo joined Altria in 1995. He led the tobacco giant's e-cigarette business, Nu Mark, before Altria pulled its e-cigarettes off the market as part of its deal with Juul. He also developed regulatory strategies for a heat-not-burn tobacco device called IQOS that Altria is launching in the U.S. with partner Philip Morris International Inc.