CHICAGO — Dwayne O. Andreas, longtime chief executive officer of Archer Daniels Midland Co. who was credited with transforming the company into an agribusiness powerhouse, died Nov. 16. He was 98 years old.
Born in 1918 near Worthington, Minn., Mr. Andreas dropped out of Wheaton College to help his father and older brothers take over Reuben & Sons, a bankrupt grain and feed business in Iowa. The company, which was renamed Honeymead Products, prospered and was sold in 1945 to Cargill. Mr. Andreas worked at Cargill as a vice-president.
Twenty years later, in 1965, the Andreas family bought 100,000 shares in ADM, which had been founded in 1902 by George A. Archer and John W. Daniels as a linseed-crushing business. Mr. Andreas became a director in 1966 and c.e.o. in 1971, positions he would hold until he stepped down in 1997. In 1999, a year after ADM pleaded guilty to price fixing charges and agreed to pay $100 million in fines, Mr. Andreas also stepped down as chairman of the company.
“This one person, in the course of six decades, singlehandedly had a, if not the, major role in structuring an American-based industry that is the model for all the world in seeking to maximize the potential of agriculture and agricultural processing,” Morton Sosland, then-editor of Milling & Baking News, wrote in a 1999 editorial. “Any assessment of Mr. Andreas’ career must credit him not just with establishing a company that stands at the top of its industry, but of always focusing on market-building, realizing missed opportunities and reaching out globally.”
Mr. Sosland said perhaps nothing was more impressive about what Mr. Andreas did during his career than “that he did what he did heading a company whose results are public, whose share price is a constant measure of performance, and who not only has had to deal with an extremely rough and tough competitive environment, but also with the harsh assessments of financial analysts.”
Additionally, Mr. Sosland credited Mr. Andreas for his ability to guide his company in an industry where “secrecy” about market positions, about sales initiatives and about expansion and acquisition opportunities all seem to give private competitors an advantage.
“In response to this difference, Mr. Andreas led ADM in developing skills that prepare its executives to make this difference a positive,” Mr. Sosland wrote. “This explains why ADM has been able to pull off more surprises than many others in agribusiness.”
Another unique aspect of Mr. Andreas’ career was his ability to build political relationships, regardless of party, Mr. Sosland said.
“That these contacts with both national and international political leaders grew out of his knowledge of food and agribusiness is itself proof of the centrality of food in global politics,” Mr. Sosland wrote. “That he grasped this in his early friendship with Hubert H. Humphrey and built on it through his later ties with Mikhail Gorbachev certify Mr. Andreas' keen judgment. He sensed, and then proved, that what he knew about agribusiness could be effective as a bridge to presidents and prime ministers.”
In his editorial, Mr. Sosland credited Mr. Andreas and his associates with helping create modern-day agribusiness and reshaping the grain-based foods industry.
“As a major processor of wheat, corn and soybeans, really as the first enterprise to build a base on all three, ADM pioneered in integrating the grain business with processing,” Mr. Sosland wrote. “His insistence on collaboration between the parts of that diverse corporation helped structure the environment that is changing grain-based foods. By his innovation, his drive for new products flowing from technology, his commitment to the supremacy of American production and processing, and his leadership of the company he and his corporate allies created, he stands as one of the great builders in the long and distinguished history of the grain industry. This is the way one suspects he would like to be known. ‘Builder’ is the title he richly deserves.”
Juan Luciano, chairman and c.e.o. of ADM, in a Nov. 16 statement said the company was “deeply saddened” to learn of Mr. Andreas’ passing and credited him with turning the company into a global leader in agricultural processing.
“When Mr. Andreas was elected the company’s chairman and chief executive officer in 1970, ADM employed 3,000 people and owned 40 processing plants, primarily throughout the U.S. Midwest,” Mr. Luciano said. “When he retired as chairman of ADM’s board of directors in 1999, the company employed more than 23,000 people and owned 274 processing plants around the world.
“During his lifetime, Mr. Andreas passionately believed in agriculture’s ability to address hunger among the world’s poor. He used his deep understanding of global markets and extraordinary business acumen to support policies and programs that helped food reach people in resource-scarce regions. After President John F. Kennedy appointed him to the American Food for Peace Council, Mr. Andreas was quoted saying: ‘Food knows no boundaries. We are in the international age of agriculture.’
“On behalf of ADM’s 32,000 colleagues around the world, I extend condolences to the entire Andreas family.”Mr. Andreas was preceded in death by his wife of 64 years, Dorothy Inez Andreas, in 2012. Survivors include a son, Michael; two daughters, Terry Andreas and Sandra McMurtrie; nine grandchildren; and 23 great-grandchildren.