Being Private

Cargill's CEO talks about the advantages of being a private company.

As most CEOs of public companies scramble to reduce exposure to market volatility, terrorism and shareholder suits, America's largest private company boldly heads into markets others fear to tread. Who else could invest in Russia as its economy collapsed into bankruptcy, or quietly control almost a quarter of U.S. beef production as mad cow disease flared up around the world? Cargill, for certain—and its long-term bets have consistently paid off. The Minneapolis firm, controlled by eight surviving members of the original founding Cargill and MacMillan families, grew revenues 19 percent last year, to almost $60 billion, which would have ranked it among the top 20 largest U.S. companies if it were public—bigger than Procter & Gamble, Boeing or Johnson & Johnson. In a rare interview, Cargill's conservative, down-to-earth CEO Warren Staley shares some of his thoughts.

Being private, Cargill doesn't have to get buy-in from as many people to do something. It is no surprise to me they are much more successful than public companies at much of what they do.

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