CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Dwayne Andreas, the farmer’s son and college dropout who turned the grain-processing company Archer Daniels Midland into “the supermarket to the world,” then saw it rocked by a price-fixing scandal, has died. He was 98.
Archer Daniels Midland spokeswoman Jackie Anderson yesterday confirmed Andreas’ death.
Under Andreas’ guidance, the company changed the agricultural world. Andreas used his influence and friendships with politicians including former House Speaker Tip O’Neill, former Sen. Bob Dole and former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to encourage federal subsidies for corn and grain farmers, maintain huge overseas markets and help turn ADM products, including high fructose corn syrup, into staples of the American diet. Gorbachev was among the international figures who trekked to the company’s longtime headquarters in Decatur, Illinois, to see Andreas. The company moved its headquarters to Chicago in 2014.
Andreas sometimes tried to downplay his influence and his company’s. But in a 1990 Fortune magazine story, he said, “How the hell could you run a business like mine if you didn’t have communications with the people who make the big decisions?”
Andreas, who became CEO of ADM in 1970, stepped down in 1997, the year after the company pleaded guilty to price fixing charges and agreed to pay $100 million in fines. The scandal also sent three men, including his only son, to prison. Andreas left the chairman of the board post in 1999. The price-fixing scheme was recounted in Kurt Eichenwald’s 2000 best-seller “The Informant” and was turned into a 2009 film starring Matt Damon.
ADM was a sleepy regional agricultural processing company when Andreas became CEO. His use of political clout — and his aggressive acquisition of smaller companies and expansion into new markets — built ADM into one of the world’s largest agricultural processing, marketing and distributing companies.
The company produces soybean oil, ethanol, animal feed, cocoa products and Vitamin E, in addition to the corn syrup sweetener that’s widely used in soft drinks and other foods. Its sales pushed toward $20 billion a year during Andreas’ last years in charge and by 2010 topped $60 billion.
Andreas’ clout and how he used it also drew harsh criticism.
The left-leaning Mother Jones magazine once declared that “Dwayne Orville Andreas runs the world.” The conservative National Review called him a “modern robber baron.” The libertarian Cato Institute labeled him the United States’ “most prominent recipient of corporate welfare.”
Andreas also came under criticism from shareholders and others for his iron-fisted control of ADM, which included putting close friends and relatives on the board of directors and in top jobs.
In October 1996, ADM pleaded guilty to two criminal charges and agreed to pay $100 million — then the largest criminal antitrust fine in history — for fixing prices.