By Jacob Bunge
Bunge Ltd. appointed longtime agribusiness executive Gregory Heckman chief executive as the grain giant revamps its business amid turbulent agricultural markets.
Mr. Heckman, 56 years old, became Bunge's acting chief executive in January after his predecessor, Soren Schroder, said late last year that he would step down. Mr. Schroder had faced pressure from activist investors after Bunge's performance suffered and discussions with two suitors didn't result in a sale of the company, The Wall Street Journal reported.
Bunge, based in White Plains, N.Y., is the world's largest soybean processor and one of the main global traders in grains, oilseeds and other farm commodities. Grain merchants like Bunge, Cargill Inc. and Archer Daniels Midland Co. have struggled as years of big harvests have built up global crop inventories and pushed down prices, while trade disputes over the past year upended established commerce in crops.
Bunge in February reported a $65 million fourth quarter loss, partly due to lower soybean prices in Brazil and declining demand from China.
Previously chief executive of Omaha-based grain company Gavilon Group, Mr. Heckman joined Bunge's board in October as part of a settlement deal with agricultural investment firm Continental Grain Co. and hedge fund D.E. Shaw & Corp. The agreement included formation of a new board committee to review Bunge's strategy.
Since taking over as Bunge's acting CEO, Mr. Heckman has been scrutinizing Bunge's business portfolio, which spans grain terminals, ports and processing plants from Iowa to Brazil and Ukraine, and examining potential divestitures. Bunge has also appointed several new executives this year, including a new global risk manager.
"His effectiveness over the past several months as acting CEO has solidified our view that Greg will drive continued progress for the business," said Kathleen Hyle, Bunge's board chair.
At Gavilon, Mr. Heckman led the North America-focused grain company from its 2008 spinoff from Conagra Brands Inc. until late 2014, following the company's sale to Japan-based Marubeni Corp.
Write to Jacob Bunge at email@example.com