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Chris Mahoney, the veteran head of Glencore’s agricultural business, has announced his retirement after 17 years as chief executive.

He will be replaced by David Mattiske, who has spent the past five years running its operations in Europe and the former Soviet Union.

The retirement marks a further changing of the guard at Glencore, the Swiss-based miner and commodity trader.

Last year, Aristotelis Mistakidis, the head of the company’s copper business and a key lieutenant of Glencore chief executive Ivan Glasenberg, stepped down.

Mr Glasenberg has said he plans to retire in the next three to five years if he has found a suitable replacement.

“I am proud to have played a part in the significant development of Glencore Agriculture over the last 20 years. In that time it has grown to become a truly global business, underpinned by the quality of its operations and the people that run them,” Mr Mahoney said in a statement.

Glencore Agri, as the business is known, is a 50:50 joint venture between Glencore and two Canadian pension funds.

They acquired a stake three years ago when Glencore was seeking to reduce debt and strengthen its balance sheet.

However, the decision to bring in outside investors was not just motivated by a desire to reduce debt but also expand the business through acquisitions.

In 2017 Glencore Agri approached Bunge, the US agricultural trader, with an offer but was quickly rebuffed.

Speaking at the FT Commodities Global Summit in March, Mr Mahoney, who won a silver medal for Great Britain in rowing at the 1980 Moscow Olympics, said the industry needed consolidation. However, the high prices demanded by sellers made deal difficult to do.

He also said the industry, which has seen profits plunge because of overcapacity, needed “bigger companies with a better geographic footprint with a disciplined approach”.

His decision to retire comes after a tough year for Glencore Agri, which was hit by poor crops in Australia, Argentina and Brazil and dry spells in Europe over the summer as well as the ongoing trade tensions between the US and China

Glencore’s attributable share of profits from the division tumbled by 79 per cent to $21m in 2018, as it traded 75m tonnes of grains, oilseeds, cotton and sugar.

Mr Mahoney, who started his career at Cargill, will remain involved with Glencore Agri as a non executive director.

Under his leadership, Glencore Agri purchased Canadian grain trader Viterra for $6.1bn in cash in a deal that gave the company a foothold in the crucial North American grain market.

“I am privileged to be given this opportunity to build on the significant achievements Chris and the team have made to date,” said Mr Mattiske.

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