John May


MOLINE, Ill. — Deere & Co. has named John C. May, 50, as new chief executive officer effective Nov. 4.

May has served as Deere’s president and chief operating officer since April.

“John’s record of success and proven leadership skills make him highly qualified to lead Deere and guide its success in the years ahead,” Samuel R. Allen, Deere chairman and CEO, said in a Thursday news release.

“His experience in precision agriculture, information technology, and overseas operations will be instrumental in driving the company’s digitalization journey and extending its success in agricultural and construction equipment.”

Allen, 66, will continue as chairman of the board of directors. May becomes the 10th chief executive in the company’s 182-year history.

May joined Deere in 1997 and became part of the senior management team in 2012 as president, agricultural solutions and chief information officer. Last year he was named president, worldwide agriculture & turf division, with responsibility for the Americas and Australia, the global harvesting, turf, and utility, and crop care platforms, and intelligent-solutions group.

Earlier in his career, May headed the company’s China operations, served as factory manager at the Dubuque Works, and was vice president of the turf and utility platform. Prior to joining John Deere, May was a management consultant at KPMG Peat Marwick for five years.

A native of Maine, May holds a bachelor’s degree in health information management from the University of New Hampshire, and a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Maine.

Ten years ago, then-55-year-old Sam Allen, a Deere veteran since 1975, became president and COO, and took on the chief executive job Aug. 1, 2009, succeeding Robert Lane.

Allen had been president of the worldwide construction & forestry division since 2005 and responsible for the global operations of the Deere Power Systems Group since 2003.

In the 2018 fiscal year, Allen earned total compensation of $18.5 million, including a base $1.5 million salary, plus incentives, stock and other compensation.

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During his tenure as CEO, Deere total sales have increased from $23.1 billion in 2009 to $37.3 billion last year. Net income shot up from $873 million in 2009 to a high of $3.5 billion in 2013, and $2.4 billion in 2018.

Earlier this month, Deere reported a quarterly sales decline of 3% to $8.97 billion, and downward revision of the full-year forecast, from $3.3 billion to $3.2 billion of net income on approximately a 4% sales gain.

“John Deere’s third-quarter results reflected the high degree of uncertainty that continues to overshadow the agricultural sector,” Allen said. “Concerns about export-market access, near-term demand for commodities such as soybeans, and overall crop conditions, have caused many farmers to postpone major equipment purchases.

“At the same time, general economic conditions remain positive and are contributing to strong results for Deere’s construction and forestry business.”

“None of it is a surprise to me,” said DeAnne Bloomberg, director of issue management at the Illinois Farm Bureau. “Farmers have seen a decline in income for five years, heading into a sixth.”

Add to that the loss in sales for farmers, added Bloomberg, “and then you combine it with what we are dealing with in the Midwest, which is historic unplanted acres and the weather conditions, the volatile weather situation — it’s been an incredibly stressful year.”

Deere has been hurt by trade wars, especially with China, said Mark Grywacheski, investment consultant with Quad Cities Investment Group.

“(Deere) is in a unique spot in that the two key targets of China were agriculture and manufacturing,” Grywacheski said. “Both tie into John Deere’s bread and butter, so they are getting hit on both sides of this trade dispute.”

Moline-based Deere is a world leader in providing advanced products and services for customers whose work is linked to the land — to meet the world’s increasing need for food, fuel, shelter, and infrastructure.

Jim Meenan contributed to this report.

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