August 29, 2019 12:30 PM, EDT

Deere Appoints New CEO

DeereDaniel Acker/Bloomberg News

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Deere & Co. is promoting John May to lead the tractor-making giant through a tough agricultural environment, with outgoing CEO Samuel Allen, 66, to stay on as chairman.

The Moline, Ill., based company is splitting up the CEO and chairman roles for now as it grapples with American farmers balking at equipment purchases amid a yearlong trade war with China and weather that has disrupted planting.

May seems to have been groomed for the position, serving as president and chief operating officer since April. He also headed China operations earlier in his career. May will join the board immediately and take over as CEO on Nov. 4.



The promotion “was somewhat expected, it was just a matter of time, but we believe May was the most logical successor to Allen,” said Chris Ciolino, an analyst for Bloomberg Intelligence.

Deere has historically promoted from within, and former CEOs have been internal operating managers who assume chief operating officer roles ahead of time. May previously ran the company’s agriculture division, as well as its precision agriculture business.

“I wouldn’t anticipate any surprise, and we’re not seeing that in the share price movement,” Ciolino said. Deere shares were little changed after the announcement. They gained as much as 2.7% the morning of Aug. 29.

The company is engaging in a fresh cost-cutting drive to defend margins amid rising trade tensions and crop prices near multi-year lows. Steps include boosting organizational efficiency through a footprint assessment. The company also is looking to make investments “with the most opportunity for differentiation,” including precision agriculture, it said earlier this month.