Revenue $136.7 B As of December 2013

  • Industry: Food, Drink & Tobacco
  • Founded: 1865
  • Country: United States
  • CEO: David MacLennan
  • CFO: Marcel Smits
  • Website: www.cargill.com
  • Employees: 140,000
  • Fiscal Year End: May 31, 2013
  • Sales: $136.7 B
  • Headquarters: Minneapolis, MN
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#1 America’s Largest Private Companies

Minneapolis-based Cargill was founded at the end of the American Civil War, by William Wallace Cargill. The company has grown from a grain storage facility into an international producer and distributor of agricultural products such as sugar, refined oil, chocolate and turkey. Cargill also provides risk management, commodities trading and transportation services. Descendants of William Cargill and his son-in-law John MacMillan have owned common equity in the company for over 140 years. Cargill employs 140,000 people in 67 countries.

“Cargill History

Cargill was founded in 1865 by William W. Cargill when he bought a grain flat house in ConoverIowa. A year later William was joined by his brother, Sam, forming W.W. Cargill and Brother. Together, they built grain flat houses and opened a lumberyard. In 1875, Cargill moved to La CrosseWisconsin, and brother, James, joined the family business. The city of La Crosse was strategically located at the junction of the Milwaukee Road railroad and the Southern Minnesota Division.

Sam Cargill left La Crosse in 1887 and moved to Minneapolis to manage the office there, which was identified as an important emerging grain center. Three years later, the Minneapolis operation incorporated under Cargill Elevator Co., years after that the La Crosse operation was incorporated under W.W. Cargill Company of La Crosse, Wisconsin. In 1898, John H. MacMillan, Sr., and his brother, Daniel, began working for W.W. Cargill. John MacMillan then married William Cargill’s eldest daughter, Edna.

20th century

Upon Sam Cargill’s death in 1903, William Cargill became the sole owner of the La Crosse office. John MacMillan was named as general manager of Cargill Elevator Company and moved his family to Minneapolis. William Cargill died in 1909, creating a fiscal crisis for the company. MacMillan worked to resolve the credit issues and to force his brother-in-law, William S., out of the company. The current owners are descended from John MacMillan’s two sons, John H. MacMillan, Jr., and Cargill MacMillan, Sr., and his youngest brother-in-law, Austen S. Cargill I.

John MacMillan ran the company until his retirement in 1936. Under his leadership Cargill grew several fold, expanding out of the Midwest by opening its first East coast offices, in New York, in 1923, and the first Canadian, European and Latin American offices in 1928, 1929 and 1930. During this time, Cargill saw both record profits and major cash crunches.

The first of these crises was the debt left by the death of W.W. Cargill. The company issued $2.25 million in Gold Notes, backed by Cargill stock to pay off its creditors. The Gold Notes were due in 1917, but thanks to record grain prices caused by World War I all debts were paid back in 1915.

As World War I continued into 1917, Cargill made record earnings and faced criticisms of war profiteering. Four years later, as a fallout from the financial crash of 1920, Cargill posted its first loss.

One of the company’s biggest criticisms has been its perceived arrogance. See, for example, Brewster Kneen in the Ecologist and also Greg Muttitt in the same journal. The MacMillans’ aggressive management style led to a decades long feud with the Chicago Board of Trade. The feud began in 1934, when the Board denied membership to Cargill. The US government overturned the Board’s ruling and forced it to accept Cargill as a member. The 1936 corn crop failed and with the 1937 crop unavailable until October, the Chicago Board of Trade ordered Cargill to sell some of its corn. Cargill refused to comply.

The US Commodity Exchange Authority and Chicago Board of Trade accused Cargill of trying to corner the corn market. In 1938, the Chicago Board suspended Cargill and three of its officers from the trading floor. When the Board lifted its suspension a few years later, Cargill refused to rejoin. Cargill instead traded through independent traders. In 1962, Cargill did rejoin the Chicago Board of Trade, two years after the death of John MacMillan, Jr. During World War II, MacMillan, Jr., continued to expand the company, which boomed as it stored and transported grain and built ships for the United States Navy.

In 1960, Erwin Kelm became the first non-family chief executive. Aiming for expansion into downstream production, he led the company into milling, starches and syrups. As the company got larger, it developed a market intelligence network as it coordinated its commodities trading, processing, freight, shipping and futures businesses. In the decades beforeemail, the company relied on its own telex-based system to connect the company.

When the Soviet Union entered the grain markets in the 1970s, demand grew to unprecedented levels to the benefit of Cargill. When Whitney MacMillan, nephew of John, Jr., took over the company from Kelm in 1976, revenue approached $30 billion. US government put pressure on big grain exporters on allegations of manipulating the market, and Cargill was a major target; however it emerged without any major changes.

Tensions arose with the company’s private shareholders, as Cargill typically put 80% of earnings back into the business. By the early 1990s, members of the Cargill and MacMillan families became upset that their shares in the company were only giving back mediocre dividends. Demands rose for an initial public offering to turn the company public. The company responded with an employee stock ownership plan, and in 1993 reportedly purchased 17% of the firm for $730 million from 72 Cargills and MacMillans. It used that stake to begin the employee stock plan. The company’s board of directors was reorganized to reduce the number of relatives to six, alongside six independents and five managers.

Ernest Micek took over as chief executive in August 1995. Cargill underwent turmoil in the following years as its financial unit lost hundreds of millions of dollars in 1998 when Russia defaulted on debt and developing countries began to have financial issues. The commodities and ingredients business, which was 75% of Cargill’s total revenue, suffered from the1997 Asian Financial Crisis.Revenues fell by double-digit percentages for two years in a row: from $55.7 billion in 1997 to $51.4 billion in 1998 and $45.7 billion in 1999, while net income fell from $814 million in 1997 to $468 million in 1998, and $220 million in 1999. By 1999, the company had $4 billion in debt. After a reduction in previously strong bond credit rating, Micek announced he would step down a year early.


Warren Staley became chief executive and continued expanding the company and it rebounded. By 2002, Cargill had over $50 billion in annual sales, twice the amount of its closest rival, Archer Daniels Midland, and had 97,000 employees running more than 1,000 production sites and out of 59 countries. On June 1, 2007, Staley was succeeded by Gregory R. Page.

Cargill’s quarterly profits crossed $1 billion for the first time during the quarter ending on February 29, 2008 ($1.03 billion); the 86% rise was credited to global food shortages and the expanding biofuels industry that, in turn, caused a rise in demand for Cargill’s core areas of agricultural commodities and technology.

In October 2011, the U.S. Justice Department announced that a biotech specialist at Cargill had pleaded guilty to stealing information from Cargill and Dow AgroSciences. Kexue Huang, a Chinese national, was discovered to be passing trade secrets back to China.

In November 2011, Cargill completed the acquisition of Provimi, a global animal nutrition company for Euro 1.5 billion ($2.1 billion US).

On April 1, 2012, Cargill completed a purchase of a cat and dog food plant in Emporia, KS. It was previously owned by American Nutrition. .[12] On May 7, 2013, Cargill broke ground on a $100 million Indonesian cocoa plant. The facility is expected to open mid 2014.”

*Information from Forbes.com and Wikipedia.org

**Video published on YouTube by “Cargill


Food Processing