Gavilon names former ADM exec as CEO in management reshuffle

Reuters — Gavilon LLC has hired a former executive from rival Archer Daniels Midland to take the helm following a big reshuffle at Gavilon, a major U.S. grain merchant, in the latest sign that the commodities rout is upending global merchants.

In a statement, the company, owned by Japanese trading house Marubeni, named Lewis Batchelder as CEO, its second chief in less than two years, to replace Jim Anderson.

Batchelder, a grains veteran with more than 40 years of industry experience, was previously senior vice-president, agriculture services, at ADM. He starts at Gavilon on Tuesday.

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Gavilon, which has roots that go back more than 140 years, confirmed Reuters’ report that Anderson, who was also president, Greg Konsor, who was head of the grains business, and chief operating officer John Neppl have left the company.

Marubeni made changes in Gavilon’s management structure to promote growth, and the executives decided to step down as a result, according to a memo.

Marubeni executives are focused on strengthening relationships with subsidiaries and “they know Lew really well,” said Patrick Burke, a spokesman for Gavilon. “Lew knows them really well and how they like to work.”

The Omaha-based merchant, whose Canadian assets include two feed transload and storage sites in Alberta and one in Quebec, has scheduled a company-wide meeting on Monday to introduce Batchelder.

In another change, Chris Faust has been promoted to vice-president and general manager of North American grain business, the company said. Brian Carleton will continue as vice-president of operations.

Batchelder takes over at a tough time for commodities merchants in general as prices of oil, metals, corn and soybeans sink amid concerns about faltering growth and oversupplies.

In the U.S., grains prices have slumped as farmers grow a bumper crop, while the strong U.S. dollar has hurt export demand.

The sudden departures at the company, which competes with global agricultural traders Cargill and ADM, also come a month after its parent halved its annual profit forecast due to plunging oil, copper and coal prices and warned that Gavilon was underperforming.

It booked a goodwill impairment loss of about 50 billion yen (C$595 million) related to its acquisition of Gavilon in 2013.

It also comes just two days after one of its customers, the U.S. bioenergy unit of Abengoa SA , filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy with up to US$10 billion in debt.

Anderson joined the firm in 2010 and had been CEO since October 2014, according to the company website.

Reporting for Reuters by Chris Prentice in New York and Michael Hirtzer in Chicago. Additional reporting for Reuters by Tom Polansek and Julie Ingwersen in Chicago; writing by Josephine Mason.

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