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Louis Dreyfus Commodities hunt for new CEO to drive corporate overhaul

By Tess De La Mare

French family-controlled conglomerate Louis Dreyfus Commodities is on the hunt for a new chief executive after its current head announced he was stepping aside after just one year.

Ciro Echesortu's appointment to the chief executive role was only ever intended to be a short-term arrangement, but Louis Dreyfus never announced just how short his tenure would be. Echesortu will leave his role on 1 June.

In recent years the privately held company has been in the process of overhauling its corporate structure to more closely resemble a public company, hinting that it might consider an initial public offering in the future.

So far it has only raised funds from the public via bonds, issuing €900 million-worth of Eurobonds over 2013.

It published its financial results for the first time in 2012, and announced a $7 billion (€5 billion) spending programme over the five-year period between 2012 and 2017 in an attempt to double in size.

Revenues at the group grew 11% to $63.6 billion in 2013, but net profit fell to $640 million from $1.1 billion in 2012 – it blamed the fall on the effect of severe drought in the US on the grain market.

Margarita Louis-Dreyfus, chairwoman and majority shareholder of Louis-Dreyfus Holding, the business's holding company, said in a statement: "One year ago, we agreed with Ciro Echesortu to begin a transition under his leadership, aiming to reinforce our leading position in the industry."

Louis-Dreyfus, widow of fourth gen Robert Louis-Dreyfus, added: "Thanks to our solid performance in 2013, the conditions are now right to implement a longer-term solution, and the supervisory board has therefore initiated an active search process for the new CEO."

Current chief financial officer Claude Ehlinger will become interim chief executive, returning to this post when a long-term replacement is found.

The company emphasised it was looking to recruit from outside the firm – Echesortu was promoted to the role from chief operating officer, having spent 28 years with Louis Dreyfus. He will now become head of strategy.

Echesortu's predecessor, Serge Schoen, is now chairman of the Louis Dreyfus supervisory board after serving as chief executive for eight years.  

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