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Founded 1865
Headquarters Minneapolis, MN
Key People David MacLennan, Chief Executive Officer
Employees 142,000 in 65 countries
Products 80 business units in five segments

Cargill is a multinational commodities firm specializing in food and agribusiness services, logistics and processing of industrial products, and financial services. According to a 2012 ranking by Forbes Magazine, Cargill is the number one U.S. private company in terms of both number of employees and annual revenue.[1]

In February 2013, Cargill became the first non-financial company to register with the National Futures Association as a swap dealer under new regulations related to the Dodd-Frank Act. According to the company's interpretation, the swap activities within its risk management division fall within the definition of a swap dealer. [2]


Cargill began with a focus on grain trade in 1865 and expanded abroad in the early twentieth century. Its founder, W. W. Cargill, first established the company's headquarters in 1870 in Albert Lea, Minnesota, taking advantage of the expansion of the Southern Minnesota Railroad. The company moved its operations to La Crosse, Wisconsin, in 1875, and expanded beyond grain into commodities like coal, flour, feed, lumber and seeds. It also invested in railroads, land, water irrigation and farms.[3]

The company faced its first critical challenge in 1910, shortly after the death of founder W.W. Cargill in 1909. The company had grown too rapidly and was overleveraged. Cargill's son-in-law John MacMillan, who took over after Cargill's death, restructured both the firm's finances and its business units. Within six years, the debts had been repaid and the firm was positioned for the tremendous growth that took place throughout the 20th century. [4]

After further expansions following WWII, Cargill grew to a workforce of 5,000 by the early 1960s and nearly 55,000 by 1990.[5] By 2012, the company's work force had grown to 142,000 in 65 countries.

Cargill also holds the distinction of making the last big sale to now-defunct and disgraced former commodities-broking high-flier Refco, which imploded in secret debt in October 2005. The conglomerate agreed to sell its commodities and futures brokerage business Cargill Investor Services to Refco just four months before for $208 million. MF Global, which subsequently filed for bankruptcy in 2011, snapped up the remains of Refco at auction in November 2005 for just over $250 million.

In October 2014 Cargill said it planned to apply for category 2 membership of the London Metal Exchange. Category 2 membership allows firms to issue LME futures contracts but not to trade on floor of the exchange. It is currently a category 5 member, meaning it has no trading rights on the LME except as a client. Along with the firm's push toward metals, it is getting out of the European power and natural gas and global coal markets, saying oversupply and slowing demand were causing prices to drop.[6]

Products and Services[edit]

Cargill's products are organized into four main market segments:

  • Agriculture Services: buying, processing and distribution of commodities; providing products and services to agricultural producers
  • Food: Ingredients and applications for food service companies and retailers
  • Financial: Risk management and financial solutions for agricultural, food, financial and energy customers
  • Industrial: Energy, salt, starch and steel products

Key People[edit]