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Deere Appoints New CEO, With Allen Staying on as Chairman

Aug. 29, 2019
John May has served as president and chief operating officer since April and is set to take over as CEO November 4.

Deere & Co. is promoting John May to lead the tractor-making giant through a tough agricultural environment, with outgoing Chief Executive Officer Samuel Allen, 66, to stay on as chairman.

The Moline, Illinois-based company is splitting up the CEO and chairman roles as it grapples with American farmers balking at equipment purchases amid a yearlong trade war with China and weather that has disrupted planting.

May seems to have been groomed for the position, serving as president and chief operating officer since April. He also headed the company’s China operations earlier in his career. May will take over as CEO on Nov. 4 and join the board immediately. Allen, 66, will continue as chairman after he steps down from the CEO position.

The promotion “was somewhat expected, it was just a matter of time, but we believe May was the most logical successor to Allen,” said Chris Ciolino, an analyst for Bloomberg Intelligence.

Deere has historically promoted from within, and former chief executive officers have been internal operating managers who assume chief operating officer roles ahead of time. May previously rain the company’s agriculture division, as well as its precision agriculture business.

“I wouldn’t anticipate any surprise, and we’re not seeing that in the share price movement,” Ciolino said. Deere shares were little changed after the announcement. They gained as much as 2.7% earlier Thursday.

The company is engaging in a fresh cost-cutting drive to defend margins amid rising trade tensions and crop prices near multi-year lows. Steps include boosting organizational efficiency through a footprint assessment. The company is also looking to make investments “with the most opportunity for differentiation,” including precision agriculture, it said earlier this month.

by Lydia Mulvany

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