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Mayo Schmidt, former president and CEO of Viterra, talks to media after their annual general meeting in Winnipeg Wednesday, March 12, 2008.John Woods/The Canadian Press

Mayo Schmidt transformed regional grain co-operative Saskatchewan Wheat Pool into Viterra Inc., a company with global operations that fetched $6-billion when it was sold in 2012.

So his appointment as chief executive officer of Louis Dreyfus Commodities was seen as a sign the 163-year-old family-owned company was set to launch a much-anticipated public offering or stake sale.

But those plans were dealt a setback after Louis Dreyfus said Mr. Schmidt would not be taking the CEO's job, and the search for Ciro Echesortu's replacement will resume.

Louis Dreyfus issued a short news release on Dec. 31 that said the two sides have "jointly decided" the deal is off "after a more detailed analysis of the terms and conditions of their planned employment relationship."

It is not clear why the company dropped plans to hire Mr. Schmidt, who could not be reached to comment. It's also unclear what his absence will mean for the planned shakeup at Netherlands-based Louis Dreyfus, which trades coffee, cotton, grain and other agricultural commodities with facilities around the world. The privately held company has yearly sales of about $63-billion (U.S.) and employs 22,000 people.

Margarita Louis-Dreyfus, whose family trust controls the company, said last year going public would help the company compete with its publicly traded or state-owned rivals for business and financing. The company is revamping its governance to more closely resemble that of a public company, and has added three people to its board.

Louis Dreyfus competes with Bunge Ltd., Archer-Daniels-Midland Co. and Cargill Inc., in addition to various government-owned traders. In Canada, it owns several Prairie grain elevators and one canola plant.

Kansas-born Mr. Schmidt's hiring was announced in November after an eight-month search, and he was to take the job on Jan. 5.

Mr. Schmidt became CEO of SaskPool in 2000 and remade the farmer-owned grain company by slashing staff, costs and assets while changing the ownership structure. He won a pitched battle for larger rival Agricore United, the first of many takeovers, and rode a boom in commodities prices to see profit soar. By the time Glencore International bought Viterra in 2012, the Regina-based company had operations in New Zealand, Australia and China.

Louis Dreyfus said Claude Ehlinger will continue as interim CEO until a replacement can be found.

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