Bunge CEO Schroder to step down, takeover rumors reintensify

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11 Dec 2018 --- Bunge has announced Soren Schroder will step down as CEO of the struggling agricultural giant. To ensure a smooth leadership transition, Schroder, who has headed the agriculture, food and ingredients supplier since 2013, will continue in his current role until a successor is named. The Board has established a search committee to identify the company’s next CEO.

The move comes as Bunge seeks to placate investors upset by its performance. It will open up debate about whether the company is up to new takeover approaches. According to reports, Schroder’s departure will remove a hurdle to further talks with would-be buyers. ADM and a unit of Glencore held merger talks with Bunge in 2017 and earlier this year without reaching a deal.

Click to EnlargeBunge has announced Soren Schroder will
step down as CEO of the struggling agricultural giant. 
 
Bunge, which has struggled to navigate an agricultural downturn that has lasted for several years and more recently a trade war between the US and China, is open to reengaging with both Glencore and ADM, a Bloomberg report quotes an unnamed person familiar with the matter.

 “While Bunge isn’t actively seeking new talks, the fact that it doesn’t plan to appoint a new permanent CEO immediately creates an opportunity for rivals to re-approach the 200-year-old firm,” the report notes. Bunge is worth US$8.3 billion, about half its peak valuation in 2008. ADM is worth US$25 billion.

Bunge has announced that Kathleen Hyle, who has served on Bunge’s Board of Directors since 2012, will become Chair of the Board, effective immediately. L. Patrick Lupo, who has served on Bunge’s Board since 2006 and in the role of Chairman since 2014, will remain a board member. Hyle will serve on the CEO search committee, along with board members Paul Fribourg, J. Erik Fyrwald and Mark Zenuk.

“It has been an honor to serve as Bunge’s CEO,” says Schroder. “We are making solid progress, and it is the right time to turn over the leadership reins. The company has a strong legacy and an exciting future ahead.”

Schroder, 57, joined Bunge in 2000 and has held a variety of agribusiness leadership roles, including that of CEO of Bunge North America. His tenure has included a significant strengthening of Bunge’s core activities in agribusiness as well as growth in food and ingredients, notably with the recent acquisition of IOI Loders Croklaan. Schroder has focused on creating a simpler, more efficient organization, establishing a series of global partnerships, building a first-class team and increasing Bunge’s focus on customers. 

“I am very pleased to become Chair of Bunge’s Board of Directors,” says Hyle. “The company is well positioned for long-term growth with the strong foundation that has been established under Soren’s leadership. We have a world-class global position in agribusiness and food and ingredients, and, with our excellent management team, we will continue to strengthen and evolve our business. I want to thank Pat for his tremendous contributions to Bunge over the course of many years and his leadership as Board Chairman.” 

Hyle, 60, has served as the head of the Audit Committee for the Bunge Board of Directors for the past five years. She has also served as Senior Vice President of Constellation Energy and COO of Constellation Energy Resources from 2008 until her retirement in 2012, when Constellation completed its merger with Exelon Corp. Hyle joined the company in 2003, and served in a variety of senior-level finance and operations positions, including as Chief Financial Officer of Constellation New Energy, Inc. 

Previously, Hyle served as CFO of ANC Rental Corp., the parent company of Alamo Rent-A-Car and National Rent-A-Car; Vice President and Treasurer of Auto Nation, Inc.; and Vice President and Treasurer of The Black & Decker Corp. Hyle is currently a Director of AmerisourceBergen Corporation and is a former Director of The ADT Corporation. 

Click to EnlargeKathleen Hyle, who has served on Bunge’s Board of Directors since 2012, will become Chair of the Board, effective immediatelyAt the beginning of 2018, it looked like a merger between ADM and Bunge was imminent. The two companies were reportedly locked in advanced talks hashing out a merger agreement that would shake-up the grain and agricultural industries, creating a formidable negotiator for crop commodities. The deal ultimately fell through.

At the end of October, Bunge formed a Strategic Review Committee of the Board, chaired by Fribourg and including new directors Greg Heckman and Jay Winship as well as three current directors, Ferrier, Hyle and Zenuk. The Committee was formed to conduct a comprehensive, strategic review focused on enhancing long-term shareholder value.

Earlier this year, Bunge completed its acquisition of a 70 percent ownership interest in IOI Loders Croklaan from IOI Corporation Berhad. The acquisition was aimed at establishing Bunge as a global leader in business-to-business oil solutions with expanded value-added capabilities, reach and scale across core geographies. Products include ingredients derived from soybean, lecithin, rapeseed/canola, palm, sunflower, coconut, olive and shea.

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