Fast exit for head of Glencore North America farm unit

The head of Glencore International Plc’s recently acquired North American agriculture business is leaving his post just a month into the job, creating a potential complication in integrating the unit.

Fran Malecha was Viterra Inc.’s chief operating officer until Glencore completed its acquisition of the Canadian company on Dec. 17 and appointed him director of agricultural products for North America.

Compass Minerals, a salt and specialty fertilizer producer based in the Kansas City, Kansas metro area, named Malecha its chief executive Jan. 7.

Malecha, 48, will take up his new post on Jan. 17 but will continue to work at Viterra in the meantime.

His abrupt change of plans gives Malecha a chance to lead a company in the city where he once lived, a Viterra spokeswoman said.

Movement in senior management is not uncommon or alarming after takeovers, but the timing is not helpful for Glencore, said Jason Zandberg, an analyst at PI Financial Corp. who previously covered Viterra.

“You’ve got essentially a company that doesn’t have operational experience in North America to any real degree and you want to keep as much of the local-grown talent as you can.”

Kyle Jeworski, formerly vice-president of grain merchandising and transportation for Viterra, will take Malecha’s place.

Glencore’s North American agriculture unit will keep the name of Viterra. It is one of the two biggest western Canadian grain handlers, with capacity roughly equal to that of Richardson International Ltd.

Malecha leaves as Glencore integrates Viterra, a $6.1-billion acquisition, into the Swiss commodity trader’s global operations.

Glencore is also selling some grain-handling, port and processing assets to Richardson and is seeking regulatory approval to transfer most of Viterra’s farm supply stores to Agrium Inc. and a minority interest in the Canadian Fertilizer Ltd. nitrogen plant to CF Industries Holdings Inc.

Malecha, who grew up on a farm in Minnesota, lived in Calgary, Alberta, during his time at Viterra. His promotion by Glencore would have required him to live in Regina, Saskatchewan, where the company’s North American agriculture business is based.

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