Nutrien CEO Mayo Schmidt quits less than a year into the job

Mayo Schmidt. (Image courtesy of International Fertilizer Association.)

Canada’s Nutrien (TSX, NYSE: NTR), the world’s largest potash producer, surprised the market on Tuesday by announcing its chief executive officer Mayo Schmidt had left the company and resigned from the board after about eight months at the top job.

The Saskatoon, Saskatchewan-based miner didn’t provide a reason for Schmidt’s exit and a spokesperson declined to comment, citing legal constraints on what can be disclosed.

Nutrien, which is launching a global search for a long-term CEO, said vice-president Ken Seitz will lead the company until Schmidt’s replacement is found.

“Nutrien has a talented and deep executive team, and we are confident that Ken Seitz and this team will continue to build on the organization’s record financial and operating performance,” chair Russ Girling said in the statement.

Schmidt had assumed the post in April 2021 after Chuck Magro resigned to pursue new career opportunities. Previous roles for the 30-year veteran of the agricultural business included CEO of the Canada’s Viterra Inc. and senior positions at ConAgra Grain Canada and General Mills. Schmidt also served as CEO of Hydro One Ltd.

“We do not know why, and may never find out (why Schmidt left),” wrote Scotiabank Analyst Ben Isaacson in a note to clients Tuesday, in which he described it as a “bizarre” situation coming so soon after the previous CEO’s departure.

“If the abrupt exit of Mr. Magro taught us anything at all, it’s that Nutrien would be best served by sharing with all of its stakeholders roughly what’s going on and why. Without doing so, we could see a new overhang emerge due to reduced investor confidence in the board and leadership team.”

The stock fell about 3.6% in New York to $73.79 and 1.68% to C$93.48 at 10:23 a.m. in Toronto trading.

Nutrien shares climbed more than 50% last year and the miner is on track to post record results for the full year as fertilizer companies benefit from soaring demand from farmers and producers for nutrients. Still, its share performance lagged North American peers CF Industries Holdings Inc. and Mosaic (NYSE: MOS).

(With files from Bloomberg)