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Chuck Magro, CEO of Nutrien, at the University of Saskatchewan's Canola Breeding facility in Saskatoon on Friday, March 1, 2019.

Kayle Neis/The Globe and Mail

Chuck Magro is stepping down as chief executive officer of Nutrien Ltd. and will be replaced by Mayo Schmidt, who is currently chairman of the Saskatoon-based fertilizer giant, the company said on Sunday.

As part of the executive shuffle, Russ Girling, Nutrien director and the former CEO of TC Energy Corp., will become board chairman. There is no indication of any controversy or pressure behind the executive changes. Nutrien said Mr. Magro, who has been its only CEO, is leaving to pursue other opportunities. It did not offer details.

Mr. Magro had been president and CEO of Calgary-based Agrium Inc. when it merged with Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan in 2018 to cement its place as the world’s largest producer of fertilizer. He will help with the leadership transition until May 16, the company said.

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“I am very proud of the strong foundation we have built at Nutrien over the last several years,” Mr. Magro said in a statement. “I am grateful for the dedication of our employees, and the important partnerships we have forged with our customers and stakeholders.”

Mr. Schmidt is a veteran of the agri-food business, having led grain-handler Viterra Inc. for a decade before it was acquired by Glencore International in 2012. He later was CEO of Ontario’s Hydro One, stepping down in 2018 amid heated political rhetoric when Premier Doug Ford demanded new leadership and a new board of directors at the utility.

“Under [Mr. Schmidt’s] leadership, along with our deep and experienced executive leadership team and our 27,000 dedicated employees, the board is confident the company is well positioned to continue to grow and create enduring shareholder value,” Mr. Girling said in the statement.

The company’s shares are up 52 per cent in the past 12 months as the global agriculture sector has recovered from the depths of the pandemic. Mr. Magro said early this year that Nutrien expects strong conditions to continue this year in the form of higher fertilizer prices and volumes, as well as contributions from new technology. He said it could be the start of “a multiyear cyclical recovery in agriculture and crop inputs.”

In February, the company reported a 29-per-cent increase in adjusted earnings for the fourth quarter, and it increased its dividend. It plans to release its first-quarter results on May 3.

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