Bunge board adds Tillridge co-founder ahead of possible sale

Mark Zenuk has joined the finance and audit committees at the agricultural giant as it reportedly fields takeover offers from Glencore and ADM.

Tillridge Global Agribusiness Partners co-founder and former ADM executive Mark Zenuk has joined the board of directors at Bunge, a New York-headquartered agribusiness that trades on the New York Stock Exchange.

Zenuk will serve as an independent director on the finance and risk policy committee and the audit committee, effective today, according to a regulatory filing. He will be the board’s 11th member and his compensation will include restricted stock units.

Dallas-based Zenuk joined Tillridge at the beginning of 2017 after six years as partner and managing director at NGP Energy Capital Management, where he led the firm’s agribusiness investment platform. He previously spent 10 years at Archer Daniels Midland, a NYSE-listed food processing and commodities trading corporation headquartered in Chicago.

At ADM, Zenuk “served in many domestic and international executive leadership roles,” according to Bunge, culminating in his position as president of its global oilseeds unit. Prior to joining ADM in 2000, he was general manager in the commodity marketing group of the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool.

“We believe his industry perspectives and business acumen will be extremely valuable as Bunge continues to execute its strategic priorities,” said Bunge chairman L. Patrick Lupo.

Gearing up for a mega-sale?

Zenuk’s addition comes as Bunge is reportedly considering possible takeover approaches from both CPPIB-backed Glencore and ADM.

A source familiar with the market told Agri Investor that Bunge’s addition of Zenuk could be related to pressure from its shareholders to close a deal soon and, potentially, to add an executive familiar with ADM’s corporate culture ahead of a possible sale to the rival.

Bunge and Tillridge declined to comment further.

The source, who added that Zenuk was well respected in the industry, speculated that he may also be interested to position Tillridge for any acquisition opportunities arising from divestments made necessary from any future sale of Bunge.

“Both companies are coming at it from positions of weakness,” the source said. “There is spread compression that is driving it; traders, the input-dealing space is massively challenged, prices are under pressure all over the place. I don’t think this is a position of strength, it’s the opposite.”

Tillridge, launched by the NGP team that had been making agriculture investments from within an existing energy fund, is currently in the market with its first dedicated agriculture fund, Tillridge Global Agribusiness II. Launched in late 2016 with a $750 million target, the fund had raised at least $375.2 million from 26 investors contributing at least $100,000, according to a regulatory filing shown in March 2017.

In a podcast interview early last year, Zenuk said that Tillridge’s strategy has focused on partnering with management teams in North and South America that are already working to play a role in meeting protein demand stemming from emerging markets. Rather than focusing on any market or sub-sector, Zenuk said, Tillridge has worked with these often family-owned operations, providing growth capital and helping to build businesses together.

“There are areas in the business many view as being really sleepy and not generally high-returning sectors,” he said. “We like that opinion of the business itself because it keeps people from really digging in. In each of the different areas along the value chain that we are playing in, we are finding teams of people that have been producing at high levels of value-add to their business.”