Land O’Lakes President and Chief Executive Chris Policinski will retire at the end of June after leading the farmer-owned dairy cooperative through one of its most robust growth periods.
Though the move was described as part of a “leadership succession plan,” a Land O’Lakes spokeswoman said Policinski’s decision to step aside came sooner than the rank-and-file anticipated.
Company officials did not make Policinski available for an interview.
Peter Janzen, Land O’Lakes’ general counsel and chief administrative officer, will take over as interim CEO.
Policinski became president and CEO in 2005, and guided the farmer-owned company through the Great Recession and explosive growth. Now ranked 216th on the Fortune 500 list of America’s largest companies, Land O’Lakes doubled in size under his watch.
Policinski oversaw joint ventures in South Africa and Kenya and in 2016 helped to engineer the biggest merger in company history by combining Land O’Lakes’ crop protection and seed business with Iowa-based United Suppliers. The combined business unit contributes about half of the company’s $14 billion in annual sales, which also includes Land O’Lakes-branded dairy products as well as Purina animal foods.
Policinski retires with more than four decades of experience in the food industry, including roles at Kraft General Foods, Bristol-Myers Squibb and the Pillsbury Co.
Chief communications officer Kim Olson described Policinski as a charismatic leader and dynamic speaker who never failed to inspire an audience.
“He also holds high expectations for people to perform at their best,” she said. “He is a true visionary. One of his favorite sayings is that we all need to see not only down the street, but around the corner.”
Janzen, the interim CEO, joined the Arden Hills-based company in 1983 as a company lawyer and has spent his entire career there. Last month, Janzen announced he was planning his own retirement in July, a decision he will now postpone.
Olson said the board of directors intends to “accelerate and move swiftly” to find a permanent replacement.
In a statement, Policinski said he had been privileged to help lead Land O’Lakes through a period of growth and innovation: “My deepest thanks go to the members and employees who have made our success possible and who have created the opportunities ahead.”