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UPDATE 2-Louis Dreyfus CEO resigns after 8-year reign
06/17/2013 Email this story  |  Printable Version

* Timing seen as crucial ahead of possible IPO

* Serge Schoen oversaw tripling of turnover

* Ciro Echesortu to take over on July 1 (Recasts, adds quote from Chairwoman, adds details throughout)

By Emma Farge and Sybille de La Hamaide

GENEVA/PARIS, June 17 (Reuters) - The chief executive of Louis Dreyfus Commodities has resigned, the company said on Monday, ending an eight-year reign in which the agribusiness giant more than tripled turnover and its profits rose to a record last year.

Serge Schoen, the firm's chief executive since 2005, will step down as of June 30 and be succeeded by Ciro Echesortu, who is now chief operating officer and head trader, the group said.

It did not give a reason for Schoen's resignation. Both men were born in the 1960s.

"Under Serge's and Ciro's leadership, our team has brought the company to its leading position in agribusiness globally," Margarita Louis-Dreyfus, its chairwoman and majority owner, said in a statement.

"The company is now well positioned to take advantage of future opportunities and to continue its impressive trajectory under Ciro's leadership, transitioning to a new era," she added.

Louis Dreyfus posted a record profit last year on the back of strong global demand for food and high crop prices following a severe U.S. drought.

Schoen's departure comes at a crucial time as the privately owned company considers whether to follow rivals such as Glencore in obtaining a public listing.

The outgoing CEO said earlier this year that Louis Dreyfus might need to go public sometime in the next five years to improve access to capital.

A source familiar with the firm's strategy said that internal preparations for an IPO had been underway, although no decision had been made about whether to pursue it and that it was just one of several options available.

Louis Dreyfus - the "D" of the so-called ABCD majors that along with Archer Daniels Midland, Bunge and Cargill dominate the trade of agricultural products - said last year it aimed to increase investments in the five years from 2012 by 40 percent over 2006-2011.

To help finance its investments, the traditionally secretive company so far has sold non-core assets, issued its first bonds and listed shares in a Brazilian unit.

Margarita Louis-Dreyfus, the widow of former head Robert Louis-Dreyfus, has increased her stake since late last year via Akira Trust to 65.1 percent from about 50 percent a few years ago, according to another source familiar with the company.

Serge Schoen will take up an advisory role in Louis Dreyfus Holding B.V., the parent company of Louis Dreyfus Commodities, and will remain a supervisory board member of Louis Dreyfus Commodities Holdings, the company said.

Echesortu has spent 28 years at the firm and has been COO since 2009. He was previously CEO for its Southern Latin American region and based in Buenos Aires.

"It could be a measured succession to the next generation with heavy Latin America and trading experience coming through," a commodities consultant familiar with the company said.

For the company statement: (With additional reporting by Gus Trompiz in Paris, Anshuman Daga and Rujun Shen in Singapore; editing by Tom Pfeiffer and Jane Baird)

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