Newsmaker: Price rules for Potash Corp's suave CEO

Thu Aug 19, 2010 5:56pm EDT
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By Euan Rocha

TORONTO (Reuters) - Bill Doyle, the consummate salesman, may be closing in on the biggest sale of his career.

The company he leads -- Potash Corp of Saskatchewan -- has spurned a $38.6 billion offer from the world's largest mining company, BHP Billiton, saying the bid was "grossly inadequate."

But the plain-spoken Doyle -- who was once described by his former boss as "the best guy in the ... sales department" -- wasted no time in saying what was at issue -- the price.

"I am not saying that we are opposed to a sale, but what I am saying is we are opposed to a steal of the company," Doyle said, responding to the initial $130-a-share offer, which BHP now plans to take directly to Potash Corp shareholders.

Most investors are betting Doyle will get what he wants, and if he plays his cards right, that could mean a half-billion-dollar payday for the chief executive.

Looking like he stepped off the cover of GQ magazine, the suave Doyle has become one of the most powerful figures in a decidedly frumpy industry - fertilizer.

Together with his mentor, former CEO Chuck Childers, he helped resurrect Canada's Potash Corp -- once a "crown corporation" owned by the state -- in a market plagued by oversupply. They built the company into the world's largest producer of an agricultural input that's now a hot commodity.

Doyle and Childers worked on a simple principle -- price rules. It's a strategy that may now apply to Doyle's stance on the BHP bid.   Continued...