Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan Inc. Chief Executive Officer Bill Doyle, who fended off BHP Billiton Ltd.’s hostile takeover bid for the Canadian fertilizer producer only to later lose a price war with a Russian rival, will step down after almost 15 years.
He will be replaced in July by Jochen Tilk, the former CEO of Inmet Mining Corp., Saskatoon, Saskatchewan-based Potash Corp. said yesterday in a statement. Doyle, 63, will stay on through June 2015 as an adviser to the company where he’s worked for 27 years.
“This is the end of an era,” said Mark Gulley, a New York-based analyst at BGC Partners LP. “Bill Doyle has been the face of the global fertilizer industry.”
Doyle leaves a legacy that includes a largely completed C$8.3 billion ($7.6 billion) plan to expand Potash Corp.’s mines at a time of ample supplies of the crop nutrient and depressed prices. The potash market was thrown into turmoil at the end of July after Russia’s OAO Uralkali quit a marketing joint venture that controlled about 40 percent of global supplies and vowed to chase sales volumes over prices.
Doyle is also chairman of Canpotex Ltd., the marketing joint venture that controls the overseas exports of the three largest North American potash producers, including Potash Corp. A staunch defender of the price-supporting arrangement, in October he called Uralkali’s move self-destructive and “probably the single dumbest thing that I’ve ever seen.”
Potash Corp., the world’s largest producer of the fertilizer by market value, fell 1.9 percent to C$37.11 in Toronto. It slumped 24 percent in July as investors anticipated lower potash prices after the end of Uralkali’s venture with Belarus producer Belaruskali.
Potash Corp. said in December it was reducing capacity and cutting its global workforce by 18 percent. On April 1 India agreed a long-term potash supply contract with Uralkali at a fixed price of $322 a ton, 25 percent less than what it paid a year earlier.
“Investors were getting a little bit tired of Bill’s long-term vision,” said Steve Hansen, a Vancouver-based analyst at Raymond James Financial Inc. “The industry has become overbuilt and some people are critical of his role in that.”
Doyle, a native of Chicago, joined Potash Corp. in 1987 when it was owned by the Saskatchewan government. The company began trading in Toronto in 1989.
He ran its potash sales through most of the 1990s, becoming CEO in July 1999. Doyle had personally amassed 2.9 million Potash Corp. shares as of Feb. 20, according to the company’s most recent proxy filing, a stake that’s worth about C$110 million. He also has 5.9 million share options, the filing shows.
In 2010 Doyle faced down a $40 billion hostile bid from Australia’s BHP. The deal was blocked by the Canadian government on grounds that it wouldn’t result in a so-called net benefit for the country.
Doyle has also tried to make his own large acquisition, with a proposal to gain control of Israel Chemicals Ltd., the country’s second-largest publicly traded company. Potash Corp, which has a 14 percent stake in ICL, scrapped the bid in April last year after Israeli Finance Minister Yair Lapid said he would oppose the deal.
Doyle’s successor, Tilk, a graduate of the University of Aachen in Germany, has spent three decades in the mining industry. He joined Inmet in 1988 and was CEO when it was bought by First Quantum Minerals Ltd. in a C$4.9 billion hostile takeover last year.
“Tilk is an outsider and that’s going to bring with it challenges for the company and for the industry,” said Hansen at Raymond James.