Ex-Viterra chief to take Ontario’s Hydro One public

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

The chief executive who morphed Saskatchewan Wheat Pool from a debt-crushed grain handler into Viterra, then oversaw its sale to Glencore, has been tapped to take Ontario’s Crown-owned power utility public.

Toronto-based Hydro One on Thursday announced Mayo Schmidt as its new president and CEO effective Sept. 3, replacing Carmine Marcello.

“We believe that Mr. Schmidt is the ideal person to lead Hydro One in its new era as a publicly held company, bringing a sharpened focus on system reliability, customer service and improved growth and performance,” Hydro One board chairman David Denison said in a release.

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne announced in April the province would “broaden ownership” of the Crown power company in a bid to “improve its long-term performance.”

Schmidt, Denison said, has an “admirable track record of leading large-scale business transformation and growth while generating value and benefits for investors, employees and customers alike.”

U.S.-born Schmidt came to the agrifood business through senior management at General Mills between 1982 and 1995, then to Canada as president of ConAgra’s Canadian grain business. He later became an executive vice-president for U.S.-based ConAgra, before joining what was then Saskatchewan Wheat Pool as its CEO in 2000.

As Regina-based SaskPool’s chief, Schmidt led its restructuring from near-bankruptcy, shutting most of its smaller grain elevators and selling off the Pool’s non-core businesses. In 2007 he spearheaded SaskPool’s merger with Agricore United — itself a merger of United Grain Growers, Manitoba Pool Elevators and Alberta Pool — and became CEO of the merged firm, Viterra.

Before leaving Viterra in late 2012, Schmidt steered the firm through its $7.5 billion sale to Swiss commodities trading giant Glencore, in which the Regina office became headquarters for Glencore’s North American ag products business.

Schmidt’s post-Viterra life included an appointment to the board of directors of Calgary-based fertilizer and ag retail giant Agrium.

He was then chosen in 2014 by Louis Dreyfus as the new CEO for the multinational firm’s grain and commodities arm, but was dropped as its choice in December without taking the helm.

Dreyfus — whose commodities arm has yet to name a permanent CEO — said its decision not to work with Schmidt followed “a more detailed analysis of the terms and conditions of their planned employment relationship.”

Schmidt, in Thursday’s release, said he believes “we can shape Hydro One into the finest energy company of its kind globally, with a strengthened culture of service and customer satisfaction along with best-in-class performance which in turn will create avenues for new growth.”

The terms of Hydro One’s move to a publicly-traded company, as laid out in April, require that its Grid Control Centre be maintained in Ontario, and that Hydro One’s headquarters and senior leadership remain located in the province.

The utility owns and operates Ontario’s 29,000-km high-voltage transmission network and a 188,000-km low-voltage distribution network.

Marcello, Hydro One’s CEO for the past three years, is to remain as an “advisor” to Schmidt and Denison for “support in the transition and the (company’s) upcoming IPO.” — AGCanada.com Network


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