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  • By Lynda Kiernan-Stone, Global AgInvesting Media

Bunge CEO Steps Down, Board Realigns Amid Harsh Market

Soren Schorder, CEO of global grain commodities giant Bunge, is stepping down from his position which he has held since 2013, as the negative fallout from a prolonged period of low grain prices and the ongoing trade war between the U.S. and China have heightened investor unrest.

Bunge’s Board has established a search committee to find the company’s next CEO, and Schroder will continue in his current role until a replacement is found.

"It has been an honor to serve as Bunge's CEO," said Schroder. "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."

Years of difficult market conditions have put Bunge in a precarious position, and made it the target of takeover attempts by rivals Glencore in May 2017, and Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) in February of this year.

And although the company has moved to diversify its businesses, such as its acquisition earlier this year of Minsa Corporation – a wholly-owned U.S. subsidiary of Grupo Minsa that includes corn flour milling sites in Red Oak, Iowa, and Muleshoe, Texas, - any offset provided by these actions has been slow and negligible.

Bunge also has agreed to make a string of significant changes to its Board. In July of this year, the company announced that Mark Zenuk, managing director of Tillridge Global Agribusiness Partners, was joining the Board of Directors effective July 17.

In October, the company bowed to pressure from two of its investors - D.E. Shaw and Continental Grain - by appointing three new Board members: Paul J. Fribourg, chairman and CEO of Continental Grain Company; Gregory Heckman, founding partner of Flatwater Partners; and Henry W. (“Jay”) Winship, president of Pacific Point Capital.

“We welcome these new directors to the Bunge Board and will benefit from their valuable expertise and perspective as we continue to transform Bunge, execute on our strategic priorities and seek ways to enhance shareholder value,” said Schroder at the time. “We are committed to engaging with all shareholders as we continue to pursue value-enhancing opportunities for Bunge.”

At the same time, the company announced that it had established a Strategic Review Committee of the Board. Chaired by Paul Fribourg, the committee includes Greg Heckman, Jay Winship, Andrew Ferrier, Kathleen Hyle, and Mark Zenuk, and will conduct a comprehensive, strategic review of the business with the goal of boosting long-term shareholder value.

Additionally, Kathleen Hyle, a Bunge Board member since 2012, has been named chair of the Board effective immediately. Former chair L. Patrick Lupo, who has been a member of the Board since 2006 and chairman since 2014, will remain a member of the Board moving forward.

"I am very pleased to become Chair of Bunge's Board of Directors," said Kathleen Hyle, Chair, Bunge Limited. "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."

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