Woertz, Patricia A.
Patricia A. Woertz
President and Chief Executive Officer of Archer Daniels Midland
Born March 17, 1953, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; daughter of Chuck (a businessman) and Vi (a librarian) Woertz; married (divorced); children: three. Education: Pennsylvania State University, B.S. (accounting), 1974; Columbia University's International Executive Development Program, 1994.
Addresses: Home—Decatur, IL. Office—Archer Daniels Midland Co., 4666 Faries Parkway, Decatur, IL 62526. Website—http://www.admworld.com.
Certified public accountant, Ernst & Young, 1974; joined Gulf Oil Corp., 1977; stayed on after Gulf and Chevron merged in 1987; named finance manager, Chevron International Technology Co., 1989; named president of Chevron Canada, 1993; named president of Chevron International Oil Co., 1995; executive vice president of Global Downstream operations, ChevronTexaco Corp., 2001–06; president, CEO, and director, Archer Daniels Midland, 2006–.
Member: American Petroleum Institute board, University of San Diego board of trustees, Pennsylvania State University Board of Visitors.
Awards: Named one of the ten most powerful women in business by Fortune magazine every year since 2000; Penn State Smeal College of Business Alumni Fellow Award, 2002; Penn State Smeal College of Business Distinguished Alumni Award, 2005.
As president and chief executive officer of food-processing giant Archer Daniels Midland Co. (ADM), Patricia A. Woertz is one of the most powerful female executives in the United States. With $36 billion in revenue, ADM ranks among the nation's largest companies—never before has such a U.S. powerhouse hired a woman for its top post. Woertz is a rarity in the world of executives—as of 2006, only eleven Fortune 500 companies had female CEOs. Woertz, who cut her teeth by spending 29 years in the ranks of the male-dominated oil business, dismisses her gender. She prefers to think of herself as a CEO who happens to be a woman. "I'm fairly certain that Archer Daniels Midland didn't hire me because I'm a woman. I think my background and my performance mean more," she said in a statement shortly after accepting the job, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.
Woertz was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on St. Patrick's Day in 1953. Her father, Chuck, worked in the business world, heading up a home-construction and development company. Woertz's mother, Vi, was a librarian who believed summer vacations should be used for educational purposes. As such, Woertz and her brother, Chuck Jr., did not spend their summers dallying on the beaches like many of their peers. Instead, they toured corporate and industrial America.
"My mother felt we'd be earning a living during our entire adult lives, and therefore believed we should spend summers in learning activities," Woertz once noted, according to the Chicago Tribune. "Consequently, I got to see a plate glass factory in Pittsburgh, a U.S. Steel plant, and how Heinz made ketchup." Other vacation destinations included an oil refinery, a window factory, and the headquarters of Gulf Oil and Mellon Bank, which were both based in Pittsburgh. This early exposure to the manufacturing world made Woertz feel at ease in industrial settings and helped pave the way for her future. "Definitely there was a seed of inspiration sown there," Woertz told Fortune's Jon Birger. "I've always enjoyed seeing how things are made."
After graduating from high school, Woertz felt pulled to follow her passion for mathematics. Speaking at a leadership conference in 2004, in a speech titled "Stepping Up to Leadership in a Global World," Woertz described how her love for math ultimately drove her into the corporate world. "If there was any one interest that might have signaled my future in business, it was probably that I liked math. I loved its complexity. I loved taking apart a really hairy problem, understanding its components, and then solving it." She acknowledged that running a corporation involves the same skills, just on an elevated level.
When Woertz graduated from Pennsylvania State University in 1974 with a degree in accounting, she was already an anomaly. In the early 1970s, there were not many women going into the field. A star pupil in her graduating class, Woertz received several job offers. She accepted a position with Ernst & Young in Pittsburgh as one of 200 recruits who joined the company that year. Of those 200, there was only one other woman. Woertz already had ambition and drive—she dreamed that one day she might become a partner in an accounting firm. Little did she know she possessed the business acumen to go even farther.
During her time at Ernst & Young, Woertz worked with both small colleges and multinational firms. She developed close ties with one client, Gulf Oil Corp., and in 1977 Woertz left the accounting firm to join its forces. At the time, Gulf Oil was fortifying its internal auditing department because an investigation had uncovered that company executives had funneled millions of dollars into illegal campaign contributions. Woertz proved to be an invaluable numbers-cruncher and in 1981, Gulf Oil transferred her to Houston to head up an audit team.
The move was just one of the many relocations Woertz was forced to take while following her dreams and ambitions. Woertz married along the way and had three children, including a set of twins. Her husband, a logistics consultant, was supportive. Though Woertz is now divorced, she acknowledges her former husband's support helped open up her career path. "At one point, we sort of said to each other, 'Gee, somebody's career is going to have to take priority,'" she recalled to Fortune. In the end, the couple followed her career plans.
During the 1980s, Gulf Oil united with Chevron in the largest corporate merger to date. Under terms approved by the Federal Trade Commission, Gulf was ordered to sell off some of its operations, including a refinery, a pipeline company, and some 4,000 gas stations. Woertz was assigned to the team that handled the divestitures and was also charged with finding ways to pay down debt. The task afforded Woertz the opportunity to learn about assets and investments. Impressed with her financial insight in handling the job, Chevron invited Woertz to join its San Francisco office and work with strategic planning. In 1989, Woertz was appointed finance manager of Chevron Information Technology Co. and by 1991 had been named head of strategic planning.
Woertz continued to make a name for herself at Chevron and in 1993 was named president of Chevron Canada, a refining and marketing subsidiary based in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. By 1995, Woertz was president of Chevron International. In 2001, after the merger of Chevron and Texaco, Woertz became an executive vice president in charge of downstream operations (downstream refers to everything that is done with oil after it comes out of the ground). In this position, Woertz was in charge of keeping watch over the company's global refining, lubricant, and marketing businesses, as well as its supply and trading ventures. While downstream operations encompassed just one branch of the company, it was no small matter—the division typically raked in $100 billion in annual revenues. At its helm, Woertz was in charge of 19 refineries and 30,000 employees in 180 countries.
Woertz struggled at first. During the first part of 2002, earnings in her division tanked, dropping from $1.1 billion to $43 million. The slide was at-tributed to market problems, a weak economy, and operational glitches. Woertz fired her senior management team and reorganized the operation. She developed an action plan that called for lowering operating expenses, reducing refinery downtime, and cutting better oil deals. Through her cost-savings plan, Woertz turned a loss of $367 million in 2002 into a $3.25 billion profit in 2004.
The job at Chevron gave Woertz firsthand experience with the global marketplace. In one two-week period, she visited operations in Costa Rica, Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, the Ivory Coast, Nigeria, and the Canary Islands. This global interfacing helped prepare her for the job at Archer Daniels Midland (ADM). Despite her love for the oil industry, Woertz took early retirement and left Chevron in February of 2006 to pursue other opportunities. By April, Woertz had been scooped up by Decatur, Illinois-based ADM, one of the world's largest farm-commodities processors. ADM takes products from farmers—like corn, wheat, and soybeans—and turns them into such products as chocolate, corn sweeteners, flour, and soymeal, among other things. Woertz, however, was brought on board to help ADM boost its corn-based ethanol business. As oil costs continue to rise, ADM is betting on the alternative fuel ethanol. ADM is the largest producer of ethanol in the United States and has been making it since the energy crisis of the late 1970s.
Since then, ADM has been waiting patiently for ethanol demand to take off in the marketplace. By 2006, it looked like ethanol would likely become a key player in the alternative energy craze as state legislatures passed bills requiring that gas be blended with ethanol. In addition, big industry seemed to be jumping on the biofuel band-wagon—in the early 2000s, automakers began releasing vehicles that ran on gas as well as E85, a blend of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent petroleum. In an effort to capture more of the ethanol market, ADM wanted to boost production worldwide by building about a dozen plants. ADM higher-ups thought Woertz's expertise might help in this area. Ethanol is a tricky product; it is highly corrosive and cannot be transported by pipeline. Greggory Warren, an analyst with the investment research firm Morningstar Inc., told the Chicago Tribune that he believes ADM hired Woertz to help solve this problem. "She understands how to get the product from the processing plant to the consumer's gas tank," Warren said. "ADM is betting the future on energy products."
Speaking to Fortune, one former ADM manager acknowledged that Woertz had a tough job on her hands as only the eighth CEO in the company's 104-year history. In addition, the company had been run by a member of the Andreas family for decades. "By God, if you only knew the culture there. Bringing an outsider, a woman no less, into a company that's a bastion of lifers and good ol' boys—I can't tell you how huge a change that is."
Upon joining ADM, Woertz's salary was set at $1.2 million. She also received a $1.5 million signing bonus in cash and stock. The high-powered executive took time to ease into the job and made an effort to get to know the company, and its employees, from directors to factory workers. During her first 100 days, she logged thousands of miles on the company's jets. She met with 4,000 employees and visited 32 of the company's operations. She also held a global town hall meeting through a Webcast that allowed employees from different locations across the world to ask her questions.
When Woertz was hired at ADM, there was much talk about her being the first woman to run such a large company. Woertz downplayed her gender, as has always been her style. Even on the golf course, when she hits the green with business clients, Woertz refuses to start off on the women's tees that are incrementally closer to the hole. Though Woertz de-emphasizes her status as a woman, she does take time to speak to up-and-coming female business executives. She has spoken to the Women in Leadership Conference at the University of California-Berkeley and has been a commencement speaker at her alma mater. One of Woertz's children, Paula Lucchini, seems to be following her mother into the corporate jungle. After graduating with an engineering degree from the University of San Diego in 2005, she joined Chevron, stepping right into the male-dominated workforce her mother has spent her career navigating.
Woertz believes her success is a direct result of her willingness to move around, take on new challenges, and find solutions. Getting the top job at ADM involved years of 80-hour workweeks and switching jobs every couple years to expand her experience. "I had a very pragmatic upbringing," Woertz noted in an online article posted on the website of the Penn State Smeal College of Business. "I'm not one to get stuck in doubt or to dwell on a dilemma. You make intelligent choices. You take reasonable risks. You calibrate, decide, and go forward with commitment."
Chicago Tribune, April 29, 2006, p. 1; April 30, 2006, sec. Business, p. 1; May 2, 2006, sec. Business, p. 2.
Fortune, October 16, 2006, p. 166.
Herald & Review (Decatur, Illinois), April 29, 2006, p. A1.
San Diego Union-Tribune, June 4, 2006, p. H2.
"Distinguished Alumni," Penn State Smeal College of Business, http://www.smeal.psu.edu/alumni/honors/distinguish (January 20, 2007).
"Stepping Up to Leadership in a Global World," Chevron Corp., http://www.chevron.com/news/speeches/2004/2004-05-14_woertz.asp (January 20, 2007).