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Benson Hill's now former CEO Matt Crisp.

People Moves: Benson Hill CEO Matt Crisp out, new boss at McCormick, Clear Frontier expands team

July 7, 2023

To keep us all up to speed on the latest people moves in agrifood, AgFunder News (AFN) publishes a monthly column of the industry’s biggest leadership changes. This month, longtime Benson Hill CEO steps down, McCormick promotes an insider to CEO, and Clear Frontier expands its team.

Are you in a new role or company? Know someone who has left? Drop me a line to share the details: [email protected].

A Crisp exit

The biggest “people move” in agtech this past month has been the departure of Matt Crisp from seed genetics company Benson Hill. Crisp co-founded the company, which is now publicly traded, and has been its CEO for more than a decade.

Benson Hill’s former CEO Matt Crisp

But midway through June, Benson Hill dropped an official release stating that Crisp had “agreed to resign as Chief Executive Officer, effective immediately.”

“Mr. Crisp will serve as a consultant to the Board for 12 months to ensure a smooth transition,” the statement continues.

Benson Hill declined to comment beyond what’s in the press release when contacted by AgFunder News.

Crisp hasn’t divulged any further details beyond a quote in the official statement, in which he said, “as we [Benson Hill] focus on the execution required to navigate this operating landscape, the Board and I have agreed that now is the right time to begin transitioning Benson Hill’s leadership.”

Adrienne “Deanie” Elsner is serving as interim CEO while the company searches for a permanent one. Elsner has served on Benson Hill’s board of directors for the last four years and has stints at Kraft and Kellogg on her resumé, too.

New flavor for McCormick

McCormick CEO Brendan Foley

Another major agrifood entity, McCormick, also has a new CEO. Brendan Foley—who has been with the company for almost a decade in various leadership roles—replaces Lawrence Kurzius, who has served as CEO since 2016 and been with McCormick since 2005.

Kurzius will continue to serve as executive chairman of the board.  In a statement, the company said sales grew over 50% and market capitalization more than doubled during Kurzius’ time as CEO. “Lawrence is widely credited with driving a period of tremendous growth, performance, and expansion,” noted Michael D. Mangan, lead director for the McCormick board.

In a LinkedIn post, Foley thanked Kurzius for his “mentorship and continued service.”

A New(ton) frontier

Ag management firm Clear Frontier has expanded its team to include ag veteran Charles Newton, who joins the team as partner alongside existing partners Angus Selby and Justin Bruch.

Clear Frontier partner Charles Newton

They first joined forces in 2008 and have worked together with Morgan Stanley and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board.

Bruch, CEO and founder of Clear Frontier, said it’s “long been an ambition” for these three to work together at Clear Frontier.

“Charles brings a wealth of institutional investment management experience combined with real-world farm operations experience,” he added.

Newton’s past work also spans several continents and stints in the telecom and retail sectors, in addition to growing up on a farm in Zimbabwe.

More people moves

🌿 Carbon project developer AgriProve appointed its first general manager of Australia. Stuart Upton joins from his previous role as director of commercial and marketing with precision ag company Netafirm.

🐛 Ÿnsect COO Shankar Krishnamoorthy was promoted to CEO of the insect protein company. Founder and former CEO Antoine Hubert will pivot to focus on science and innovation as CŸO [“Chief Ÿnsect Officer”].

🥬 Indoor farming firm Local Bounti welcomed new CEO, Anna Fabrega. Fabrega, who comes from a farming family, spent nearly 10 years at Amazon (Amazon Go and Amazon Kitchen) and was most recently CEO of prepared meal service Freshly.

🌳 Crop management platform Semios named Zachary Sheely as global VP of sales and marketing. Zach previously held the position of President at Agworld North America.

Layoffs tracker

Bad news for several restaurant tech and foodservice startups this past month:

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