Former CEO Schoen Exits Board of Agri Trader Louis Dreyfus

  • Schoen led Louis Dreyfus expansion through its best years
  • Board changes come after profits sank to lowest in a decade

Serge Schoen, the former chief executive officer of Louis Dreyfus Co., has resigned as deputy chairman of the board at the commodity trading house.

In addition to Schoen, Steven Wisch, a former Goldman Sachs Group Inc. partner who joined the Louis Dreyfus supervisory board in 2014, is also leaving, the Rotterdam-based company confirmed in an e-mailed statement.

“These planned changes are in line with the group’s new strategic roadmap for the coming years,” Louis Dreyfus said. The company is responding to the “post-super cycle environment for the agribusiness industry, by placing increased emphasis on core business areas,” and also “ensuring even stronger alignment between corporate governance and senior management,” it said.

The departure of Schoen, who managed the company through its most profitable years that saw net income surge to more than $1 billion in 2010 from just $70 million in 2005 when he became CEO, comes at a difficult time for the trading house.

Falling Profits

In March, the company said its full-year profit fell 67 percent to the lowest in a decade as the world’s largest trader of rice and raw cotton was hurt by lower prices, reduced volatility and an oversupply of agricultural commodities.

Billionaire Margarita Louis-Dreyfus, the head of the 165-year-old firm, is considering selling a minority stake to finance the purchase of shares from other family members. She owns 81 percent of the holding company that controls Louis Dreyfus Co. and was appointed chairperson on Oct. 1, succeeding Schoen.

Schoen was a close confidant of Robert Louis-Dreyfus, the great-grandson of the company’s founder and late husband of Margarita. Robert Louis-Dreyfus died in 2009.

He appointed Schoen to serve as CEO of the commodities business and Schoen oversaw a restructuring to diversify trading operations and increase industrial assets. The company grew rapidly during his eight-year tenure with its asset portfolio value expanding to more than $5 billion.

Performance Praised

When Schoen stepped down as CEO in 2013, Margarita Louis-Dreyfus praised his “exemplary performance,” and noted that under his leadership the company “more than tripled its turnover, multiplied its net results tenfold and increased its shareholder funds sixfold,” according to a statement released at the time.

Wisch, the managing partner of investment firm El Dorado Partners LLC, spent 18 years at Goldman Sachs, according to a statement from Louis Dreyfus announcing his appointment to the board in April 2014. He didn’t respond to an e-mail seeking comment.

Other management changes in the past year include naming Gonzalo Ramirez Martiarena as CEO and Sandrine Teran as chief financial officer.

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