Paine Schwartz hires former Monsanto strategy exec

Steve Bierschenk’s nearly 20 years at the St Louis-headquartered agrochemical giant culminated in a five-year stint as vice-president of global strategy.

Steve Bierschenk

Paine Schwartz Partners has hired Steve Bierschenk, a former vice-president of global strategy at Monsanto and nearly 20-year veteran of the company, as managing director on its investments team.

Bierschenk, who started his new role on Monday, described his position as focused on identifying new investment opportunities and working to enhance performance of existing portfolio companies.

Paine Schwartz chief executive Kevin Schwartz praised Bierschenk’s life science and agribusiness experience.

“We have known Steve for many years, including seeing him in action and are very excited about the significant value he will add to the firm and our investments.”

Paine Schwartz declined to comment further.

Bierschenk’s last five years at Monsanto were spent as lead of its global strategy unit, leading long-term competitive strategy for the agrochemical giant and working with start-ups within its incubator. He previously spent five years each as director of marketing and business development and as lead of a global business strategy and development unit.

Prior to joining Monsanto in 2000, Bierschenk held various roles within healthcare as a brand manager for Procter & Gamble.

An industry source familiar with both Monsanto and Paine Schwartz told Agri Investor that Bierschenk’s hire is an example of the kind of personnel moves that are natural following changes such as the merger with Bayer. Most executives at Bierschenk’s level, the source said, are happy where they are and often reluctant to move – absent significant opportunity.

“When there’s structural change in an organization, people become more open to change. It’s no more or less complicated than that,” the source said. “A deal like that, conceptually, makes people open to change.”

Paine Schwartz’s addition of Bierschenk continues a pattern of affiliation between the New York-headquartered firm and Monsanto, to which its predecessor firm sold vegetable and fruit-seed developer Seminis for $1.4 billion in 2005.

In November 2016, the firm hired Stephen Padgette – Monsanto’s former vice-president of R&D and co-inventor of Roundup Ready, the most commonly used biotechnology trait in agriculture – to serve as operating director. In April, the firm added former Monsanto president and managing director for Brazil Rick Greubel.

Paine Schwartz is currently seeking $1.2 billion for the latest iteration of its flagship investment vehicle, which will target 8 percent returns and 20 percent carried interest by acquiring about 15 control and non-control positions in businesses throughout the agribusiness supply chain.