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Ex-Viterra chief Schmidt named Nutrien’s new CEO

Chuck Magro stepping down for 'new opportunities'

Mayo Schmidt, shown here in Winnipeg in 2007, has been named CEO of Nutrien. (Dave Bedard file photo)

Canadian fertilizer and ag retail giant Nutrien has tapped a familiar name in agribusiness to lead the company, as the CEO it’s had since birth steps aside.

Saskatoon-based Nutrien said Monday its board has named its current chairman, Mayo Schmidt, as the company’s new CEO. Replacing Schmidt as Nutrien’s chair is Russ Girling, former CEO of TC Energy.

As CEO, Schmidt replaces Chuck Magro, who said Monday he’s stepping down from that post and his spot on the board of directors to pursue unspecified “new opportunities.” Nutrien said Magro will be “available” to the company until May 16 to help in the transition.

Girling described Schmidt as “a remarkable leader who is committed to our values of safety and integrity, our purpose and our strategy focussed on sustainably feeding the world.”

Kansas-born Schmidt played briefly for the NFL’s Miami Dolphins in 1980 and later rose through senior management at General Mills. He came to Winnipeg in 1995 as president of ConAgra’s Canadian grain unit.

In 2000 he left an executive post at ConAgra in California for the CEO post at what was then Saskatchewan Wheat Pool. Schmidt oversaw the Regina grain firm’s restructuring from near-bankruptcy, shutting most of its smaller elevators and shedding non-core businesses.

In 2007 he spearheaded SaskPool’s merger with Agricore United and remained CEO of the merged firm, Viterra, until 2012. He oversaw its sale to Swiss commodities trader Glencore — which in 2016 spun off its ag unit, now rebranded under the Viterra name.

A 2014 appointment to the CEO post for Louis Dreyfus’ commodities business didn’t pan out, and Schmidt in 2015 became CEO at Ontario power utility Hydro One. There he handled that company’s IPO before his 2018 “retirement” following the election of Doug Ford’s provincial Tory government.

Schmidt also joined the board at Agrium, chairing the Calgary fertilizer and ag input company’s merger committee for its combination with PotashCorp into Nutrien in 2018.

“The outlook for our business is exceptionally strong,” Schmidt said of Nutrien in that company’s release Monday. “I look forward to leading the continued execution of Nutrien’s strategy and driving industry-leading performance across all our lines of business.”

Schmidt said in the coming weeks he’d be “connecting with our employees, valued customers and shareholders to continue building our positive momentum and our focus on advancing sustainable solutions to feed a growing planet.”

Magro, who came to Agrium from Nova Chemicals in 2009, said Monday he’s “very proud of the strong foundation we have built at Nutrien over the last several years” and “look(s) forward to working with Mayo over the coming weeks to support a seamless transition and to my next adventure.”

With Magro’s departure, Nutrien said its board would now cut its seat count from 12 to 11, and the remaining 11 directors would all stand again for election at the company’s annual shareholders’ meeting next month. — Glacier FarmMedia Network

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