Ex-Viterra chief dropped as Dreyfus’ CEO-elect

Mayo Schmidt, shown here in Winnipeg in 2007, led Viterra until 2012. (Dave Bedard photo)

The terms by which Mayo Schmidt would lead Louis Dreyfus’ commodities business have led the company and its chosen CEO to part ways.

Offering no further details, Louis Dreyfus Commodities said Wednesday the company and the former Viterra CEO “have jointly decided not to proceed” with Schmidt taking the helm, “while retaining the highest mutual professional respect.”

Rotterdam-based Dreyfus, in a statement Wednesday, said its decision followed “a more detailed analysis of the terms and conditions of their planned employment relationship.”

The company’s search for a CEO “will resume immediately,” Dreyfus said.

The Reuters news service quoted unnamed sources Wednesday as saying Dreyfus had also considered two internal candidates to be LDC’s new CEO. Reuters named one as Gert-Jan van den Akker, LDC’s senior head of regions.

Van den Akker had come to LDC in June from Cargill’s Singapore office, where he was co-platform leader of the U.S. firm’s energy, transportation and metals group

The other candidate Reuters named was Claude Ehlinger, LDC’s chief financial officer and its interim CEO since Ciro Echesortu left the CEO post in April.

While the CEO search goes on, Ehlinger “will continue to ensure the group’s operational leadership,” LDC said Wednesday.

Schmidt had been booked to start Jan. 5, having been nominated to the post in late November. He’d stepped down earlier this month from the board of directors at fertilizer and ag retail firm Agrium, a decision the Calgary company said was made as “a result of his recently accepted role” at Dreyfus.


U.S.-born Schmidt, a former senior manager at General Mills and ConAgra, made his name in Canadian agribusiness starting in 2000 as CEO of what was then Saskatchewan Wheat Pool.

Schmidt oversaw SaskPool’s financial restructuring from near-bankruptcy and spearheaded its 2007 merger with Agricore United into Viterra, becoming the merged company’s CEO. Before leaving Viterra in late 2012, Schmidt steered it through its sale to Swiss commodities trading giant Glencore.

Terms of Schmidt’s hiring at Regina-based SaskPool in 2000, according to company filings, included a “signing bonus” of over $240,000, a “relocation bonus” of almost $73,000 and, in his first few years with the company, a “retention bonus” which would have had to be repaid to SaskPool if Schmidt quit before an agreed-upon date.

Schmidt, a ConAgra executive based in California before moving to Regina, also got “tax equalization” payments from SaskPool to cover the difference in his taxes owing as a Saskatchewan resident compared to his tax bills in California.

SaskPool at the time paid such equalization to other executives including its then-chief financial officer, Michael McCord, covering the spread in his tax bill between Saskatchewan and Nebraska.

Dreyfus has commodity merchandising and ag processing activities on every continent and is active in over 100 countries. In North America, the company bills itself as one of the continent’s top exporters of wheat, soybeans, corn and cotton.

Dreyfus has a Canadian office in Calgary and operates 10 inland terminals — four in Saskatchewan, three in Alberta, two in Manitoba and one at Dawson Creek, B.C. — plus a major canola crushing plant at Yorkton, Sask. — AGCanada.com Network


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