Baseball legend Tony Gwynn today passed away at the age of 54 from cancer that he had publicly blamed on his long addiction to chewing tobacco. Yet shares in the company that made Gwynn’s dip of choice, Skoal, is up more than 1%.
To be sure, there has been no definitive link between Gwynn’s cancer and Skoal, which has been owned since 2008 by tobacco giant Altria Group
. Here is how ESPN described the situation, back in 2011:
Gwynn asked whether smokeless tobacco caused all of this. The head radiation oncologist at Scripps Clinic, Dr. Prabhakar Tripuraneni (whom the Gwynns call Dr. T.) said he couldn’t definitively say dipping initiated the tumor. He says it’s his opinion that the cancer was unrelated, but acknowledged there hadn’t been sufficient studies done to prove it one way or another. Gwynn’s reaction was, “Of course it caused it,” and [Gwynn’s wife] Alicia nodded.
“If Tony believes that, who am I to argue with him?” Tripuraneni says.
But, at the very least, you’d think the news of Gwynn’s death might have even a minor impact on Altria’s stock performance. The Richmond, Va.-based company has around a 55% retail share of the U.S. smokeless tobacco market, via both its Skoal and Copenhagen brands, and represents around 12.2% of Altria’s $4.5 billion in 2013 profits. In other words, bad PR for Skoal should be bad for Altria. Except that it hasn’t worked out that way.
For the record, Altria did not announce any new financial or product news today, and the overall Dow Jones Industrial Average is up just around 0.6% as of this writing (i.e., Altria is outperforming the market).
Below is a chart of Altria stock over the past year, during which time it has risen nearly 16%:
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