Cargill picks new CEO to take over Dec. 1

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Reuters / Agribusiness Cargill Inc. announced David MacLennan, its president and chief operating officer, will be its new chief executive officer Sept. 12.

MacLennan replaces CEO Gregory Page, 62, who is stepping down.

MacLennan told Reuters that Cargill will keep on the same path set under Page’s leadership, focusing on investments outside of North America while expanding its energy business to include more physical trade.

“Overall, we like our mix of hard asset businesses, primary and secondary processing, value-added foods, trading relative to risk management for our customers and our own businesses,” he said.

Minneapolis-based Cargill is one of the world’s largest privately held corporations and a top commodities trader. It reported earnings of $2.31 billion for the fiscal year that ended May 31, compared with $1.17 billion a year ago.

Cargill, a leading global grains exporter, is among four “ABCD” companies that dominate the flow of agricultural goods around the world. The others are Archer Daniels Midland Co., Bunge Ltd. and Louis Dreyfus Corp.

The chief executives of Louis Dreyfus Commodities and Bunge stepped down this summer.

MacLennan said he sees Cargill’s greatest growth opportunities in Brazil — as the country expands crop production and shipping infrastructure — and in Africa and China where demand for food will continue to rise.

“Seventy-five per cent of our capital in the last five years has been invested outside the United States,” MacLennan said. “It will continue to be more outside of North America rather than inside of North America.”

MacLennan, 54, joined Cargill in 1991 and has worked in its financial, risk management, energy and animal protein businesses in the United States, London and Geneva. He became president and COO in 2011.

“The challenge is navigating a world that has a lot of volatility,” MacLennan said.

Volatility has been a factor in Cargill earnings in recent years, most notably fiscal 2012 when profits fell 56 per cent to $1.17 billion as Cargill was squeezed by soft economies and market volatility.

Company officials said the leadership change was not related to recent volatility and noted the 148-year-old company had record earnings five out of the last six years with Page at the helm.

Page, who has worked for Cargill for 39 years and is stepping down from chief executive before Cargill’s mandatory retirement age of 65, will become the company’s executive chairman. In that role, Page will lead the board and be a resource to the company.

“To the outside world this may come about as news — amongst our leadership team this has been a well-vetted process,” said Page, adding the transition began more than two years ago to “maintain continuity in Cargill.”

Cargill remains privately held by descendants of the founders from the Cargill and MacMillan families.

Asked if Cargill will go public in the near future, MacLennan said: “No. The families’ commitment to staying private is unchanged.”

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