WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. — Soren W. Schroder has announced his intent to step down as chief executive officer of Bunge Ltd. He will continue his role as c.e.o. until a successor has been appointed. A search committee has been established to identify the company’s next c.e.o. Additionally, Kathleen Hyle has been named chairman of the board, effective immediately.
“It has been an honor to serve as Bunge’s c.e.o.,” said Mr. Schroder, who has been c.e.o. since 2013. “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.”
A native of Denmark, Mr. Schroder moved to the United States to attend college, and he joined Continental Grain Co. in 1983 after he graduated.
After 16 years at Continental and then at Cargill (which acquired the worldwide grain assets of Continental in 1999), Mr. Schroder joined Bunge in 2000. There he helped organize the company’s global grain trading platform — Bunge Global Markets, establishing teams in Europe and Asia. He also headed various Bunge business operations in the United States, Mexico and Canada before becoming c.e.o. of Bunge North America in 2010.
His tenure has included a significant strengthening of Bunge’s core activities in agribusiness and growth in food and ingredients, with the recent acquisition of Loders Croklaan. Mr. 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.
The company has struggled to sustain growth in recent years. At the end of November, Bunge shares were trading on the New York Stock Exchange for $57.07 per share, versus $70.77 when Mr. Schroder assumed the reins as c.e.o. in 2013. Earnings were erratic over the period with return on invested capital depressed the last two years. Earlier in 2018 Bunge was said to be a takeover target for Archer Daniels Midland Co., but an agreement between the companies did not materialize.
In late October, the company’s board launched a strategic review and added three members to the company’s board — Paul J. Fribourg, chairman and c.e.o. of Continental Grain Co.; Gregory A. Heckman, founding partner of Flatwater Partners (and former c.e.o. and president of The Gavilon Group, L.L.C.); and Henry W. Winship, president of Pacific Point Capital, L.L.C.
In addition to the announcement of Mr. Schroder’s impending departure, Bunge’s board has made changes.
Ms. Hyle, who has been named chairman, has served on Bunge’s board of directors since 2012. 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. Ms. Hyle will serve on the c.e.o. search committee, along with board members Mr. Fribourg, J. Erik Fyrwald (see related story below) and Mark Zenuk.
“I am very pleased to become chair of Bunge’s board of directors,” Ms. Hyle said. “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.”
Ms. Hyle has served as the head of the audit committee for the Bunge board of directors for the past five years. She also has served as senior vice-president of Constellation Energy and chief operating officer of Constellation Energy Resources from 2008 until her retirement in 2012, when Constellation completed its merger with Exelon Corp. Ms. 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, Ms. Hyle was c.f.o. 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. Ms. Hyle is currently a director of AmerisourceBergen Corporation and is a former director of The ADT Corp.