Passings: Hamish Maxwell; Kenneth Bunting

Hamish Maxwell

Philip Morris Cos. CEO

Hamish Maxwell, 87, who steered Philip Morris Cos. in its purchase of General Foods Corp. and takeover of Kraft Inc., milestones in transforming the tobacco company into a consumer products conglomerate in the 1980s, died Saturday at his home in Palm Beach, Fla. He had bladder cancer, said his daughter Graham Russell.

Maxwell spent 37 years with Philip Morris, culminating with his tenure as chairman and chief executive officer from 1984 to 1991.

In 1985, he dipped into the company's deep cash reserves to spend $5.8 billion for General Foods Corp., maker of Jell-O, Maxwell House coffee and Birds Eye frozen foods.

Then, in 1988, he led Philip Morris in a hostile bid for Kraft that ended with a $13-billion buyout that created, for a time, the world's largest consumer products company. The merger, which made Kraft General Foods Inc. a unit of Philip Morris, brought together familiar brands including Kraft's Miracle Whip salad dressing and Velveeta cheese, and Philip Morris' Marlboro cigarettes and Miller beer.

Philip Morris in 2003 became Altria Group Inc., which today is the largest seller of tobacco in the U.S.

Maxwell was born Aug. 24, 1926, in Liverpool, England. His father, Alexander Maxwell, was a tobacco-leaf dealer and the U.K.'s tobacco controller during World War II.

The younger Maxwell served in the Royal Air Force during World War II and studied at Cambridge University, then took a job with the U.K. travel agency Thomas Cook & Sons.

His father helped get him an introduction to Alfred Lyon, head of Philip Morris, which hired him at its plant in Richmond, Va. He then worked in New York and, from 1969, in Melbourne, Australia, as head of the Asia-Pacific division of Philip Morris International. He became chief executive of Philip Morris International in 1978.

According to his daughter, Maxwell was a cigarette smoker until about 10 years ago.

"Of course we're concerned about smoking and health and the public's perception of the issue," he told Fortune magazine in the late 1980s. "But I have no feelings of guilt, no trouble sleeping at night. There was a time when people thought drinking was much worse a sin than smoking. Both can be abused, but each gives pleasure and has social value."

Kenneth Bunting

Former newspaper executive

Kenneth Bunting, 65, a former newspaper executive and free press advocate, died Sunday of a heart attack while playing tennis in Columbia, Mo.

His death was announced by the National Freedom of Information Coalition, for which Bunting was executive director from 2010 until earlier this year. The free press group is based at the University of Missouri's School of Journalism.

"Even after he left, he continued to support NFOIC, helping to connect people looking for (Freedom of Information) help and reminding us of pending deadlines and First Amendment news stories of note," the coalition said in a statement on its website. "He was a strong voice for FOI and government transparency and a great advocate for state coalition groups trying to fight off encroachments on their open government laws. The NFOIC will miss his voice."

Bunting spent 17 years at the Seattle-Post Intelligencer, working as its managing editor, executive editor and the associate publisher.

He was also a senior editor at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and spent nine years as a reporter and editor at the Los Angeles Times, from 1978 to 1987. Bunting also worked for the San Antonio Express-News, the Cincinnati Post, the Sacramento Bee and the Corpus Christi Caller-Times.

Born in Houston on Dec. 9, 1948, Bunting graduated from Texas Christian University in 1970. The university honored him as the first inductee into its Schieffer School of Journalism Hall of Excellence.

Times wire reports

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