Martin Richenhagen has decided to hand over the reins to one of the largest farm technology companies in the world.
After 16 years of running Agco, the often controversial Richenhagen told journalists and the industry gathered for a meeting in Germany last month that his replacement would, “all bullshit aside, (Eric Hansotia) will do a better job than I did.”
He later joked that would be the case even if his replacement was an American. A citizenship the 68 year old, former German high school teacher did eventually take out.
Those will big shoes to fill when chief operating officer Hansotia takes over as chief executive officer in January. Richenhagen took Agco from a set of about two dozen agricultural equipment brands marketed under one flag to a competitive public company that rivals Deere and Case New Holland for technology and, in some areas, share of the market.
Back in 2006, Agco was a collection of acquired companies running “60 different IT systems without any post-merger integration plans. We didn’t have a (market or credit) rating. Our stock was less than $10. We paid no dividends. We had to turn it into one company, which we did,” he said.
The plain-speaking Richenhagen often criticized stock markets, investors, global political leaders, including American presidents and occasionally his own board of directors, but he often found fans in farmers and dealers.
In 2011, Fendt was one of the first brands of farm equipment to debut a fully autonomous tractor. Speaking to reporters about the future of autonomous farm equipment at the Agritechnica farm show in Germany that year, Richenhagen said the United States would receive it later than many other parts of the world due to liability issues.
Richenhagen said in most countries the liability for damage caused by an errant, driverless tractor would rest with the farmer who owned it. But that in the U.S. that issue was still being considered by Agco’s lawyers.
He went on to say he found it ironic that “the world’s most capable country, when it comes to the technology to deliver guided missiles to a remote target would be the last to get an autonomous piece of farm equipment.”
A few years later, he quipped at a meeting in the U.S. that instead of paying dividends to his shareholders he was investing heavily in new manufacturing facilities and suggested that if he paid them dividends they might “take the money and buy (John) Deere stock.”
He organized the business and expanded the offerings to make it a full-line farm equipment manufacturer, including livestock feeding and grain storage and handling.
The company has consolidated its operations and in the past 16 years increased its annual sales from about US$3 billion to nearly $10 billion and its share price is now about $75.
The company has been rationalizing its brands under the Fendt flag, but retaining some others such as Massey Ferguson and Challenger, depending on regional and dealership relationships.