AN Australian is back at the helm of the big Landmark farm services group and determined to push on with expansion plans which have seen the company spend $270 million on business acquisitions in the past four years.
Rob Clayton, former director for Landmark’s south eastern region, officially became managing director in late January, although he has spent a couple of weeks in North America with eight other senior Landmark staff.
Originally from a wheat, sheep and beef farming background at Coonamble in New South Wales, where his family still farms, Mr Clayton started work as a junior in the IAMA crop supplies branch in Moree, just weeks before the business was absorbed by Landmark in February 2001.
He replaces Tommy Warner, the US-born accountant and farm products business manager who moved to Australia in 2013 from Kansas, then last year became vice president of international retail operations for Canadian-based parent company, Agrium.
Mr Warner, who now oversees operations in Australia, South America and Canada, was “excited” to pass his leadership baton to somebody who truly understood the business and why it was successful.
“Rob has been in agriculture his entire career holding a range of positions from shed sweeper to Big N co-ordinator and division manager,” Mr Warner said.
“He has been an extremely valuable part of Landmark since he joined.”
Mr Clayton, 43, has a busy agenda of visits to Landmark branches and customers in his diary for the next month or two, starting in Western Australia, followed by Queensland and northern NSW.
His career to date, has spanned everything from agronomy product sales to livestock auctioning and rural property marketing, including stints as branch manager at Coonamble, divisional manager for north western NSW, based at Dubbo, and six years at Melbourne head office as a regional executive.
His South East region covered southern NSW, Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia.
Prior to joining IAMA/Landmark he worked on cropping farms in the Collarenebri and Coonamble districts for six years.
Mr Clayton has also studied business at the University of Melbourne, Victoria and Harvard Business School in the US.
“I’ve been very lucky to have been given some great breaks and to work with a lot of people who share my enthusiasm for this industry,” Mr Clayton said.
“I really do love this work.”
Landmark, one of Australia’s big three players in the stock and station agency and farm services market, has about 380 business representation sites and 1600 staff.
Mr Clayton’s appointment has coincided with a busy start to the year for the company.
Last month it became the latest live cattle exporter to send a shipment of slaughter stock to China, following groundbreaking 2017 deliveries by the North Australia Cattle Company, Wellard and Elders.
Mr Warner and Landmark International boss, Andy Ingle, were in Huanghua in northern China on January 28 when 2070 slaughter-ready cattle arrived from Fremantle, Western Australia, on the Ganado Express – the biggest consignment sent so far.
Landmark is also taking possession of Louis Dreyfus’ fertiliser business, Macrofertil Australia, next month after a $70m deal in December.
That acquisition gives Landmark and its crop inputs division a much-desired footprint in WA, which it intends to expand, plus fertiliser facilities in SA and Victoria.
A total of six fertiliser storage and distribution assets handling about 300,000 tonnes a year.
Apart from taking Landmark head-to-head against WA’s dominant Wesfarmers’ CSBP fertiliser business, the Macrofertil assets will complement its existing network of 400 sites around Australia.
Meanwhile, parent company Agrium, which bought Landmark in late 2010 from the collapsing AWB group, has officially renamed itself, Nutrien.
The change accompanied Agrium’s $32 billion end of year merger with another Canadian giant, Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan.
While speculation in recent years suggested Landmark’s North American parent was considering selling its Australian business, Mr Clayton’s agenda indicates quite the opposite.
“Agrium/Nutrien is in Australia for the long term and at Landmark we intend to keep growing,” he said.
“We’ve added about 45 businesses to our network in the past six years, and if the right opportunities come up, we’ll be buying more if those assets or investments can add to ways we help our farmer customers.
“From the top down there is huge focus on what we can do for our Landmark customer base and a lot of interest (from Nutrien) in the Australian model.”
Landmark’s investment activity in recent years included buying back franchised livestock and merchandise agencies and other sites it had previously sold, and acquiring or opening new business shop fronts.
It also bought product distribution depots offloaded in a restructure by chemical supplier and manufacturer, Nufarm.
“Our agenda is based around how we can add value to what our customers do,” Mr Clayton said.
“It’s central to our business that everything we do is about looking long-term at how this will assist farmers make decisions, or help them do their job.”