Paine Schwartz adds ex-Monsanto exec as operating director

Rick Greubel joins the food and agribusiness-focused firm while it continues to develop its $300m-$400m earlier-stage vehicle.

Paine Schwartz Partners has hired Rick Greubel, a former Monsanto executive, to serve as operating director in an addition that reflects the firm’s recent focus on agtech and Brazil.

Chief executive and founding partner Kevin Schwartz said the firm had known Greubel for years and would look to draw on his experience in both start-ups and multinational companies.

“We are bolstering our strong and deep bench of operating professionals, and we look forward to benefitting from his international expertise and leadership experience,” he added.

Paine Schwartz declined to specify where Greubel will be based and who he will be reporting to.

Greubel joins the firm after a three-year stint ending in January as chief executive at Kaiima Bio-Agritech, an Israeli company focused on improving plant productivity by inducing novel diversity within genomes using plants’ own DNA. Prior to joining Kaiima in 2015, he served for five years as president of Human Health and Nutrition at Royal DSM in Switzerland, a position he assumed after four years as group vice-president and international president for Tyson Foods.

At Monsanto, Greubel’s 22-year career culminated in his five years as the company’s president and managing director in Brazil, according to Paine Schwartz.

Earlier-stage effort

In July, Agri Investor reported that Paine Schwartz was raising a fund dedicated to companies across the food and agribusiness value chain that are in an earlier stage of their development than those typically invested in through the firm’s flagship vehicle, which surpassed an initial target of $800 million before closing on $893 million in late 2015.

The Growth Equity Fund is thought to be targeting between $300 million and $400 million. In a presentation delivered at the June 2017 Agri Investor Forum in Australia, former UTIMCO natural resources investments director Spencer Swayze and ex-Monsanto executive Stephen Padgette, currently at Paine Schwartz, suggested a focus on biologicals and agtech.

A market source told Agri Investor that Paine’s addition of Greubel, who holds a bachelor’s degree in microbiology from Missouri State University, is probably related to the firm’s Growth Equity Fund efforts. The source added that the addition of Greubel fits a pattern of Paine bringing people from industry into their firm.

“Like everybody who is of their size in private equity in food and agri, it would almost be dereliction of duty to not look at Brazil”
Market source

“They have had a connection with Monsanto and Brazil in the past, so I wasn’t surprised by that either,” the source said, adding that they were not aware of any recent investments by Paine Schwartz in what he described as the “very competitive” Brazilian market.

“They have sniffed around that market for specific deals. I don’t know if I would I would go so far as to say that I’ve heard anyone describe it as a dedicated strategy in Brazil, but we have heard about them looking at opportunities,” the source said. “Like everybody who is of their size in private equity in food and agri, it would almost be dereliction of duty to not look at Brazil, given its importance in the Western Hemisphere in the food chain.”

A review posted in March by someone identifying themselves as a former Paine associate on an anonymous management review site noted a high degree of international travel as both a pro and a con of working at the firm, which they acknowledged as a “growing, recognized” leader in the market.

“Seems to require more travel than the typical private equity firm – partly due to the international presence,” the person wrote.

Follow-on capital

The Agri Investor source said that although they were not specifically aware of the Growth Equity Fund’s target, a fundraising goal of $300 million to $400 million would be appropriate.

“They have an increasing interest in all things agtech; in earlier-stage deals that would more border on venture capital than their traditional private equity buy-out type deals. That is not limited to the US, but I think that is certainly a key focus area for them.”

Because investors often look for funds to have at least 10 deals to ensure diversification, the source said, Paine might follow the practice of some venture capital funds active in the agtech market by opting to make smaller deals that leave capital to continue supporting the most successful companies as they progress.

“My guess is that their initial check sizes would not be much less than $10 million, but I would be surprised if they wrote checks that were considerably larger than $30 million,” the source said.

A second source told Agri Investor that although they knew of no companies that Paine has invested in through its Growth Equity Fund, the firm had expressed interest in an animal health nutrition company.