Imperial Tobacco (Gold Leaf)

Gold Leaf was the first commercial Formula 1 sponsor in 1968. The brand was owned by Imperial Tobacco, which dates back to 1901 when a group of British cigarette manufacturers decided to link up to stop James Buchanan of the American Tobacco company from taking over the British tobacco industry. As a result in 1902 American Tobacco and Imperial agreed that each would control its own market area and that together they would establish a third company to sell their brands around the world. The new company was called British American Tobacco. BAT developed a big market in Asia but anti-trust legislation in the United States in 1911 forced American Tobacco to sell its shares in BAT on the London Stock Exchange.Imperial Tobacco's leading brands were Gold Leaf, Woodbines, Players, JPS, Navy Cut, Number Six and Embassy but in the 1960s the company diversified into other industries.I After three and half years using Gold Leaf in F1, Imperial Tobacco decided to switch to John Player Special colours and in 1973 Imperial added a second deal, using its Embassy brand to sponsor the Hill team. After the death of Graham Hill in 1975 the deal lapsed but the JPS sponsorship of Lotus continued until after the dominant 1978 season.In 1972 the original agreement between Imperial and American Tobacco finally lapsed when European Community legislation overruled the deal. The following year Imperial dropped the tobacco name and became the Imperial Group and was floated in 1981. Soon after the flotation the company decided to return to F1 with JPS once again sponsoring Team Lotus and the deal continued until the end of 1986. By then Imperial had been taken over by corporate raider the Hanson Trust.The company remained under Hanson ownership until the autumn of 1996 when Hanson decided to sell off its tobacco interests and floated them off as Imperial Tobacco Group Plc. The new group announced plans for a major international expansion programme, particularly in Asia and acquired cigarette paper firm Rizla in January 1997.The expansion programme continued in 2002 when Imperial acquired the German tobacco company Reemtsma, the owner of McLaren title sponsor West, for $5.1 billion.