Archer Daniels Midland Co. tapped Juan Luciano, its Argentine-born president, to succeed Patricia Woertz as chief executive, highlighting the U.S. agricultural company’s expanding international profile.
The succession plan, to take effect Jan. 1, will close a chapter in the career of one of the nation’s most prominent female CEOs. The 61-year-old Ms. Woertz, who will remain ADM’s chairman until her planned retirement in May 2016, has run the company for eight years, broadening its global footprint and investing in new business lines, with occasional missteps.
Luciano, 53, will be the company’s first CEO to hail from outside the U.S. An industrial engineer by training, he ran plastics and energy businesses for Dow Chemical Co. before joining ADM in 2011 as its chief operating officer.
He will take the helm as the company invests in more food-ingredient businesses and bulks up its core grain-trading operations in fast-growing agricultural centers like Brazil.
On Tuesday, ADM, which has a market value of $32 billion and nearly $90 billion in annual revenue, posted a 60% rise in third-quarter profit, lifted by strong margins in its ethanol business and a rebound in grain trading.
“The company’s running on all cylinders,” said Ms. Woertz, in an interview. “It’s a great time for a handoff.”
Analysts had viewed Mr. Luciano, who added the title of president at ADM in February, as a likely successor to Ms. Woertz. While at the company, he has drawn on his experience running businesses around the world to help create a more-globalized structure for the company and invest more in regions such as China and Eastern Europe.
“Part of our opportunity is international, geographic expansion,” he said in an interview.
Born in San Nicolas, Argentina, Mr. Luciano has longstanding family ties to agriculture, including a grandfather who ran a grain elevator in the South American country.
He will be the second executive to lead ADM since the era of the Andreas family, whose members ran the company from 1970 until 2006, when Ms. Woertz took over from G. Allen Andreas. ADM’s board had chosen Ms. Woertz on the strength of her management at Chevron Corp. , where she was an executive vice president and ran a $100 billion refining and marketing operation by the end of a nearly three-decade career. She joined ADM as the farm-product trading and processing company prepared to delve deeper into corn-based ethanol production.
The company nearly doubled its production capacity to 1.7 billion gallons per year during her tenure. Still, its financial returns from ethanol and related businesses, such as a push she led into bioplastics, haven’t lived up to some investors’ expectations.
Ms. Woertz also put money into grain-purchasing and transport operations in new places for ADM, such as along the Danube River in Europe and in northern Brazil, where ADM’s new terminal loaded its first ship in August.
ADM stumbled last year when its effort to acquire Australian grain merchant GrainCorp Ltd. was blocked by that country’s government, which ruled that the deal ran counter to national interest. The decision dealt a blow to ADM’s ambitions to supply more grain in China, where it is building plants to make corn syrup and other ingredients.
On Ms. Woertz’s watch, ADM shares have climbed 39%, compared with a 54.5% increase in the S&P 500 index. The company’s revenue rose to $89.8 billion last year from about $36 billion in 2005.
Last year, Ms. Woertz oversaw ADM’s plans to move its headquarters to Chicago after more than four decades in the small central Illinois city of Decatur. The move was aimed in part at making it easier for executives to travel to the company’s overseas operations. ADM still has about 4,400 employees in Decatur.
By Jacob Bunge