Perspectives from ISB

Cargill, the largest private company in US, is 151 years old and is owned by the Cargill and MacMillan families. The two families own about 90% of the shares, and about 80% of profits are reinvested in the company, as in order to remain family controlled requires funding growth through either debt or profits. The company is currently going through a restructuring with profits declining for two years.

Much of this restructuring is driven by non-family CEO, David MacLennan. In the past eight months, he has halved Cargill’s senior management team, reorganized business lines and eliminated about half of the company’s corporate committees, cutting red tape that some executives said contributed to declining profits. As per analysts, fiscal 2016 is expected to be the company’s biggest year for divestitures in the last decade and at least the second biggest for acquisitions. In another move from tradition, Cargill Inc. is moving out of its headquarters in a ‘rambling French-style mansion’ in Wayzata, Minn., where it had been based for seven decades.

Currently no family members work in the firm, although MacLennan takes next-generation family members on tours of the company’s facilities and answers family members’ questions weekly. The older directors are retiring, paving the way for a new generation of the Cargill and MacMillan families to take seats on Cargill’s board. For instance, new family directors Andrew Cargill Liebmann and Richard Cargill are both in their mid-30s and neither has worked for the company. These next-generation family members are said to have taken corporate governance courses.

Source: Wall Street Journal, April 8, 2016