Viterra Inc. has appointed a representative of its largest shareholder to its board of directors in an apparent move to defuse a public showdown over how the grain-handler and farm supplier conducts its business.
It said Brian Gibson, a senior vice-president for Alberta Investment Management Corp., or AIMCo, will join the board.
It didn’t announce any additional departures from the board but said last month – before AIMCo made its displeasure public on Nov. 1 – that Vic Bruce and Paul Daniel would not seek re-election to the board.
Although AIMCo owns 17 per cent of Viterra’s equity, it hasn’t had a seat on its board of directors. By contrast, there are several directors, including Daniel, from ABB Grain – an Australian company acquired by Viterra in 2009 for $1.4-billion.
Viterra is Canada’s largest grain handling company, which was formed by the merger of the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool and Agricore United. The ABB Grain acquisition was part of a move to diversify geographically, citing the importance of Canada and Australia as major grain exporters.
The company is also diversified by products and service offered, mainly for farmers. It announced last week that it’s buying Imperial Oil’s commercial and farm fuel distribution business in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta.
AIMCo is one of Canada’s largest institutional investment managers, representing 26 pension, endowment and government funds including the Alberta Heritage Savings Trust.
AIMCo said Nov. 1 that it had approached Viterra repeatedly over the past 18 months about board changes, and warned it would seek a special shareholder meeting if Viterra did not co-operate.
The two sides issued a brief joint statement Friday that didn’t deal with specific issues.
“We are pleased to have representation from our largest shareholder on our board, and we look forward to working with AIMCo and Mr. Gibson to continue to build shareholder value,” said Thomas Birks, chairman of Viterra’s board.
Mr. Gibson’s comment was: “I am pleased to be joining the Viterra board and look forward to working with Viterra to increase shareholder value. AIMCo remains committed to Viterra’s long-term success.”