I've been looking at Philip Morris International (NYSE:PM), the globally focused tobacco company that Altria (NYSE:MO) spun off back in early 2008. The stock has attracted investors willing to capitalize on the huge income and growth opportunity of tobacco companies while offering them access to a world of current and potential customers. Yet just as U.S. companies Lorillard (NYSE:LO), Reynolds American, and Vector Group (NYSE:VGR) have experienced an increasingly hostile legal and regulatory environment for smoking domestically, the question remains whether Philip Morris International can avoid a similar backlash overseas.

That international growth potential makes up the core thesis of my premium report on Philip Morris International. To overcome those obstacles, the company will need strong leadership at the helm. Let's take a closer look at who's running the show at Philip Morris.

CEO Louis Camilleri is no stranger to the tobacco industry. He's been at the helm of Philip Morris International since its spinoff from Altria in March 2008, and he had been Altria's CEO from 2002 until then. His history with Altria goes decades, with Camilleri having joined Philip Morris Europe in 1978 and rising through the ranks to take on various executive positions in Philip Morris's Eastern Europe, Middle East, and Africa division before taking responsibility for the entire European Union region.

Camilleri also acts as chairman of Philip Morris International's board and was chairman of Altria throughout most of his tenure as CEO. He also served as chairman of the board at Kraft Foods, another former Altria company, from 2002 to 2007 and is still on the board of Mexican telecom company America Movil (NYSE:AMX).

For investors concerned about whether executive incentives are aligned with shareholder interests, Camilleri's fairly substantial share holdings should bring some comfort. He owns about 1.56 million shares of Philip Morris stock, worth roughly $137 million at current prices. That represents less than 0.1% of the company's outstanding shares, but for a corporation with a market capitalization of almost $150 billion, it's hard to argue that Camilleri hasn't demonstrated his commitment to seeing the stock perform well.

Yet a major source of Camilleri's stock wealth has come directly from his compensation as CEO. From 2009 to 2011, the executive received total compensation of more than $70 million, with almost $35 million of that coming in the form of stock awards and almost $25 million more coming from non-equity incentive plan compensation.

Still, shareholders have seen amazing performance from the stock over the years. Philip Morris stock had limited losses of only 10% to 15% during 2008's market meltdown, and shares recovered to their early 2008 spinoff levels by late 2009. Since then, the share price has risen around 80%, and that excludes Philip Morris's generous dividend payouts. Although some might characterize Camilleri's compensation as equally generous, he at least can point to the rise in the stock as evidence that he has done his job well.

In general, Philip Morris employees seem to believe Camilleri's doing a good job. According to Glassdoor, 94% of those rating Camilleri approve of his job performance as CEO.

A smokin' performance
With Louis Camilleri at the helm, Philip Morris has been able to capitalize on its unique opportunity. Despite rich compensation, Camilleri has kept his stake in the company high, reassuring fellow shareholders that he has their interests at heart.

Fool contributor Dan Caplinger has no position in any stocks mentioned. You can follow him on Twitter @DanCaplinger. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.