Potash CEO's key to success

By Christopher Donville and Laura Marcinek (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-08-27 13:49
Large Medium Small

Potash CEO's key to success
Potash Corp of Saskatchewan Inc's Cory mine stands in the distance beyond a road construction sign in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada, on Aug 19. Geoff Howe / Bloomberg 

VANCOUVER - Potash Corp of Saskatchewan Inc Chief Executive Officer Bill Doyle says he's tasted what's driving global demand for fertilizer.

Potash CEO's key to success

"When I first went to China in 1979, we were eating monkeys' brains, crickets and sea urchins," Doyle, 60, said. "Today you go to China and they ask you if you want to split a beef tenderloin."

As China's prosperity booms so too does its appetite for meat, adding to demand for global crops as animal feed. Use of nutrients to boost crop yields has made Potash Corp the fifth largest company in Canada by market capitalization.

That demand also spurred BHP Billiton Ltd, the world's biggest mining company, to make a $40 billion hostile bid last week.

Potash CEO's key to success
Bill Doyle speaks during an interview in New York on Wednesday.

Doyle, a former fertilizer salesman who runs Potash Corp from offices in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan and his native Chicago, rejected the $130-a-share offer as "beyond opportunistic" and is pursuing discussions with other potential investors.

China's Sinochem Group and Brazil's Vale SA made initial inquiries with Potash Corp's board last week about possible talks, a person with knowledge of the matter said.

Investors expect a higher bid for the Canadian potash producer. Potash Corp fell $3.61, or 2.4 percent, to $145.50 in New York Stock Exchange composite trading.

The shares have advanced 30 percent since Aug 16, the day before the company disclosed BHP's approach.

Annual profits

Doyle, appointed CEO in 1999, delivered a 26 percent average annual increase in profit to shareholders since taking the post, triple the 6.9 percent advance of the S&P Toronto Stock Exchange Composite Index, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. His result ranks 20th among the 229-member benchmark, a list led by the 37 percent average return of Eldorado Gold Corp during the period, the data show.

BHP returned an average 20 percent a year in the period in Sydney trading.

While delivering to shareholders, the Potash Corp boss has drawn criticism from farmers worldwide after potash prices soared two years ago. His pay, which last year totaled $9.7 million, has been questioned by union officials.

The 2.93 million shares and stock options he held according to a Feb 19 company filing would have a gross value of $445 million based on BHP's offer.

"These comments about what I make or might make, I just laugh at that," Doyle said. "I really don't care about that. I work and do what I do because I love it."

Motorcycle ride

Doyle received a degree at the undergraduate college of arts and sciences at Georgetown University in Washington in 1972, according to a university statement last year that gave details of a $1.5 million donation he made.

After university, he set out on a motorcycle trip across the back roads of Europe.

"I saw agriculture in 37 different countries, sleeping outside 13 out of 14 months, by myself and came back and said, 'You know what? Those people with their fingers in the dirt and harvesting something every year, that's what I want to be associated with," Doyle said in a May 2008 interview.

After the trip he joined International Minerals & Chemical Corp, a maker of potash. By 1982, he was vice-president of export sales, according to Canadian Who's Who.

Potash is a form of potassium used by farmers to strengthen stalks and roots and help crops fight disease.

Potash Corp controls 20 percent of global supply, according to the company's website.

Bloomberg News