Nutrien changes ti­tles of ex­ec­u­tives

Says move not con­nected to leg­is­la­tion re­quir­ing CEOs to work in the prov­ince


Days after the pro­vin­cial govern­ment raised red flags about leg­is­la­tion re­quir­ing its chief ex­ec­u­tive work in the prov­ince, the world’s largest fer­til­izer com­pany changed the ti­tle of its sole se­nior ex­ec­u­tive liv­ing in Saskatchewan to in­clude “CEO.”

Nutrien Ltd. ap­pointed Su­san Jones as its new pres­i­dent of po­tash — a ti­tle car­ried over from Po­tash Corp. of Saskatchewan Inc., where it was in use since at least 2001 — ear­lier this year. Jones is now listed as the com­pany’s CEO of Po­tash.

The com­pany also changed the ti­tles of two other ex­ec­u­tives: Its for­mer pres­i­dent of re­tail and pres­i­dent of phos­phate and ni­tro­gen. Raef Sully is now listed as CEO of Phos­phate and Ni­tro­gen, while Michael J. Frank is now CEO of Re­tail.

Nutrien spokesman Will Tigley said the de­ci­sion was made for “busi­ness rea­sons” and had been in the works for “a few months.” The tim­ing was “co­in­ci­den­tal” and not in­tended to ap­pease the pro­vin­cial govern­ment, he said.

It’s not clear if the ti­tle changes come with ad­di­tional re­spon­si­bil­i­ties. They are in­tended to bet­ter re­flect the three ex­ec­u­tives’ roles within the new com­pany, Tigley said.

The changes are un­likely to as­suage the govern­ment’s fears — first ar­tic­u­lated last year by then-Premier Brad Wall — about where Nutrien’s most se­nior ex­ec­u­tives live and work fol­low­ing the merger that cre­ated it.

Premier Scott Moe “re­mains con­cerned” about the busi­ness lo­ca­tions of Nutrien’s ex­ec­u­tives, and is ex­pected to ad­dress the mat­ter in a meet­ing with the com­pany’s CEO and board chair this month, said James Parker, a spokesman for Moe.

“Our govern­ment con­tin­ues to look at op­tions to en­sure that Nutrien is ful­fill­ing its obli­ga­tions and com­mit­ments,” Parker said Thurs­day.

The ti­tle changes came days after the Saska­toon StarPhoenix re­ported that Jones was the only one of Nutrien’s se­nior ex­ec­u­tives liv­ing in Saskatchewan. Most of the rest, in­clud­ing CEO Chuck Ma­gro, re­side in Cal­gary, which ap­pears to be its main base of oper­a­tions.

Ac­cord­ing to the 1994 Po­tash Cor­po­ra­tion of Saskatchewan Re­or­ga­ni­za­tion Act, Po­tashCorp and its suc­ces­sors cre­ated through amal­ga­ma­tions or re­or­ga­ni­za­tions must main­tain “head of­fice func­tions” in the prov­ince.

The act, which was passed to al­low Po­tashCorp to be­come a pub­licly-traded com­pany in 1989 and sub­se­quently amended, also man­dates that the com­pany’s chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer and chief fi­nan­cial of­fi­cer work in Saskatchewan.

The pro­vin­cial govern­ment in­sists the act ap­plies to Nutrien. The com­pany has so far re­fused to pro­vide its view on the mat­ter, with a spokesman say­ing only that is a point of dis­cus­sion for the up­com­ing meet­ing with govern­ment of­fi­cials.

While Moe has re­fused to say whether he be­lieves Nutrien is vi­o­lat­ing the leg­is­la­tion, At­tor­ney Gen­eral and Jus­tice Min­is­ter Don Mor­gan was asked the same ques­tion in Saska­toon last week.

He re­sponded with a sim­ple “Yes.”

Nutrien was cre­ated on Jan. 1 when Po­tashCorp merged with Agrium Inc. in a deal worth US$26 bil­lion.

Un­der Wall, the pro­vin­cial govern­ment has twice pre­vi­ously threat­ened to use the leg­is­la­tion to keep the com­pany’s head of­fice oper­a­tions in Saskatchewan: Dur­ing BHP’s failed takeover bid in 2010, and again in the lead-up to the merger.

Moe has since been crit­i­cized by the Saskatchewan NDP for fail­ing to main­tain his pre­de­ces­sor’s firm stance on the mat­ter.

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