Cargill Inc. has named a new CEO.
Brian Sikes, the company's chief operating officer, will take the helm Jan. 1, the agribusiness announced Monday morning. He will be Cargill's 10th chief executive in its 157-year history.
Dave MacLennan, 63, has held the post for nearly a decade. He will become executive chair of the board to ensure a smooth transition.
"As Cargill continues to navigate dynamic global markets, both operational excellence and a clearly articulated vision driven by purpose and values will define the company's success, and there is no better person than Brian to lead Cargill," MacLennan said in a statement.
Two years ago, Sikes appeared positioned to ascend to the top post when he was named chief operating officer, a role that Cargill often only fills to groom its next CEO.
"He's a person of action and results, with a relentless passion for serving our customers and our people," said MacLennan, who has spent 31 years at Minnetonka-based Cargill, the world's largest grain trader.
Before his elevation to chief operating officer in early 2021, Sikes led Cargill's protein and salt businesses. He joined the company in 1991, the same year as MacLennan.
Cargill, with more than $165 billion in revenue last year, is America's largest privately held company. The firm's portfolio is wide-ranging — from soy to cocoa, beef to poultry, road salts to global shipping.
During MacLennan's tenure, Cargill made some of its largest acquisitions in the company's history, including Sanderson and Wayne Farms (chicken), Croda (bioindustrial), EWOS (salmon feed) and Diamond V (animal nutrition). Under his leadership, Cargill has expanded expertise in alternative proteins like cultured meat and pea protein.
He also reshaped the company's portfolio through about $3 billion in divestitures, including the sale of its pork, petroleum trading and asset management businesses. After several years of declining sales, Cargill's revenue has steadily risen over the past five years. This follows several moves to further diversify an already diverse company with increasing focus on higher margin, high growth businesses.
"I am honored to succeed Dave as Cargill's president and CEO," Sikes said in a statement. "Under his visionary leadership, Cargill has a solid foundation, business model and culture that positions us for long-term success. Our 160,000 employees across Cargill are the best in the industry."
Because the company sells its goods to packaged food companies and restaurant chains rather than directly to consumers, Cargill's relatively low name recognition does not match its vast influence on the global food supply and natural resources.
As such, the company is often a target of environmental and human rights groups that criticize the company's actions, or inactions, on issues such as child labor in the world's cocoa supply or palm oil harvesting in Southeast Asia and Central America. During his time, MacLennan faced significant pressure over the company's soy operations in Brazil, with activists protesting outside his Twin Cities home.
MacLennan has fielded critiques from Republican lawmakers for his Black American farmer equity initiative that was created following the murder of George Floyd in the company's home community. At a congressional committee meeting earlier this year, representatives from Georgia and Arkansas reproached him for offering a price premium on cotton to Black farmers to encourage their participation in mainstream markets that have historically discriminated against them.
Sikes will be one of only a handful of men to lead Cargill from outside the MacMillan and Cargill families, which still own 88% of the company.
Erwin Kelm was named the first non-family member chief executive in 1960. The position returned in 1976 to a family member, Whitney MacMillan, who shifted operational control of the company away from the family by adding more independent directors to the board. Ernest Micek, Warren Staley, Greg Page and MacLennan — none of whom were family members — have been part of the CEO succession since the mid-1990s.