Viterra sheds bipolar operating model

Canada’s largest grain company plans to rework its businesses around a worldwide top-down model rather than as a house split between the Great White North and the Land Down Under.

Viterra on Monday announced new titles for most of its top executives, “formalizing its global structure” around the worldwide trio of its grain, agri-products and processing businesses.

The company, which took over Australian agribusiness ABB Grain in 2009, has named a chief operating officer for each of those businesses, reporting to Viterra’s Calgary-based CEO, Mayo Schmidt.

“We seek to balance the contributions from each segment to drive increased returns, while reducing the overall earnings risk within the portfolio,” Schmidt said in a release.

Fran Malecha, previously the chief operating officer for Viterra, has been renamed chief operating officer for grain. He will be responsible for the company’s worldwide grain and oilseed business, including origination, handling and port terminal operations, merchandising, logistics and commodity trading.

Malecha, raised in Minnesota and now also based in Calgary, came to Viterra from General Mills’ grain division in 2000.

Doug Wonnacott, formerly senior vice-president for agri-products, leading the company’s Prairie ag input operations, will now be chief operating officer for agri-products groups.

His responsibility, the company said, will be the “growth, expansion and diversification of Viterra’s global agri-products portfolio” including research and development, seed, crop protection products, fertilizer, equipment and, in Australia, wool.

Wonnacott, who came to Viterra from U.S. ag inputs firm Agriliance in 2007, is based in Regina.

Karl Gerrand, formerly senior vice-president for processing, is now chief operating officer for processing.

Based at Portage la Prairie, Man., Gerrand will be responsible for processing operations globally including wheat and oat milling, malt, pasta processing, oilseed crushing and feed manufacturing.

A fourth executive now reporting directly to Schmidt will be Viterra’s president for Southeast Asia, Rob Gordon, based in Adelaide, Australia. 

Gordon, the company said, is credited with the “record performance of the Australian business,” noting he “successfully managed the largest harvest on record in South Australia (and) strengthened the operational performance and leadership teams in Australia and New Zealand, while delivering the synergies well ahead of target in the midst of a record harvest.

Gordon, who previously reported to Malecha, is now to lead the “next stage of Viterra’s development to accelerate our growth initiatives in the Southeast Asian marketplace,” the company said.


At the senior vice-presidents’ level, Steven Berger, formerly in charge of “human resources and transformation” worldwide, will now head a larger, consolidated “corporate services” unit including Viterra’s human resources, transformation, employee communications, real estate, facilities procurement, engineering and corporate security functions.

Berger, based in Calgary, previously oversaw development of Viterra’s “M+A Playbook” which the company describes as its main tool to “manage transformation, from small change through large acquisitions.”

Jim Bell will remain Viterra’s senior vice-president, general counsel and corporate secretary, also in Calgary, heading the firm’s global legal affairs team.

Mike Brooks, also operating from Calgary, will remain Viterra’s senior vice-president for information technology and its chief information officer (CIO).

Colleen Vancha, the company’s Regina-based senior vice-president for investor relations and corporate affairs, will retire Sept. 15, Viterra said.

Chief financial officer Rex McLennan, operating from Calgary, will handle Vancha’s duties on her retirement and will also head up the search to Vancha’s replacement for the global organization, the company said.

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