December 31, 2014 / 4:18 PM / 3 years ago

UPDATE 1-Louis Dreyfus back to drawing board as Schmidt CEO appointment falls through

3 Min Read

* Group says Mayo Schmidt will not take up CEO post

* Commodity trader had nominated ex-Viterra boss last month

* Family firm still favours external hire - sources (Adds source-based detail on CEO search, context)

PARIS/LONDON, Dec 31 (Reuters) - Louis Dreyfus Commodities made a surprise announcement on Wednesday that newly appointed Chief Executive Mayo Schmidt would not take up his post, forcing the global trading group to resume the CEO hunt it first launched in April.

The former head of Canadian grain handler Viterra had been due to start on Jan. 5 after being nominated by Louis Dreyfus at the end of November in the latest stage of a corporate shake-up at the 163-year-old family-owned business.

"Following a more detailed analysis of the terms and conditions of their planned employment relationship, Louis Dreyfus Commodities and Mr. Schmidt have jointly decided not to proceed with the engagement," the company said in a statement.

"The search for the CEO of Louis Dreyfus Commodities will resume immediately."

A spokeswoman for Louis Dreyfus declined to comment further.

Whatever the problems were, they appear to have come to a head in the past week, given that Schmidt stepped down from the board of Canadian fertiliser company Agrium Inc on Dec. 22 ahead of his planned arrival at Louis Dreyfus.

Traders and analysts had seen Schmidt's record of building up Viterra through acquisitions before overseeing its sale to Glencore as fitting the plans of owner Margarita Louis-Dreyfus, who has overhauled the group since inheriting control from her late husband, Robert, in 2009.

Louis Dreyfus is one of the "ABCD" quartet of companies -- alongside Archer Daniels Midland, Bunge and Cargill -- that dominates agricultural commodity trading.

To keep pace with its traditional rivals and newcomers to agricultural markets, such as Glencore, Margarita Louis-Dreyfus has raised the possibility of a share listing or a tie-up with a partner and has overseen the group's first forays into bond markets.

The appointment of Schmidt, 57, had also been in keeping with Louis Dreyfus's preference for an external candidate and the company is expected to continue to favour an outsider as it renews its search, sources said without citing potential targets.

Claude Ehlinger, the group's finance director who has been acting as interim chief, will continue in that role under his new title of deputy CEO, Louis Dreyfus said in the statement.

The group announced in April that it was seeking a new CEO to replace company veteran Ciro Echesortu, who had taken over only a year earlier from long-serving chief Serge Schoen. Both retain senior posts at the company.

Ehlinger was one of two internal candidates considered for the CEO role before Schmidt's nomination, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

The other candidate was Gert-Jan van den Akker, who assumed the role of head of regions in June, having previously been executive vice president Asia Pacific at competitor Cargill.

Reporting by Gus Trompiz in Paris, Veronica Brown, Silvia Antonioli and Sarah McFarlane in London; Editing by Andrew Callus and David Goodman

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