Having weathered the storms of World War II and built close relationships with Brazil and other leading South American countries, at the dawn of the 1950s, the Louis–Dreyfus family company could consider itself truly global, with trading offices from New York to Melbourne.
The 1950s marked the beginning of a period of change, and not only within the Group. The post-war world – and Europe in particular – looked remarkably different than it had before 1939. The new decade brought with it the winds of change: a time for recovery as well as unexpected opportunities.
Having remained essentially a grains trader since the times of Léopold, over the next two decades the Group now looked to new avenues for growth, expanding its scope of operations to infrastructure and logistics.
When Gérard Louis-Dreyfus was appointed Chairman of the Group in 1969, he took trading activities in a different direction and capitalised on arbitrage opportunities in a variety of commodity markets.
Under this passionate and charismatic leader, the company experienced unprecedented growth. Gérard extended the Group’s agricultural activities to cotton, sugar, citrus as well as coffee, and in the 1990s, expanded origination and marketing activities by incorporating citrus and oilseeds processing.
Building on the prosperous period under Gérard, a new era began when Léopold’s great-grandson – Robert Louis-Dreyfus – took over in 2006. Robert created autonomous subsidiaries for each of the Group’s different activities, consolidating the company structure and giving it a new name: Louis Dreyfus Commodities.
One of Robert’s most revolutionary measures was his decision to reward employees with a blend of equity shares and cash bonuses, in order to encourage long-term thinking and greater involvement in the Group’s day-to-day performance, creating a sense of belonging in the company.
Since Léopold founded the Group in 1851, every generation of the Louis-Dreyfus family has faced challenges and adversity: from war and personal sacrifice, to fierce competition within the industry. And this generation is no exception.
One of the two most significant events in recent memory was the advent and repercussions of the global financial crisis of 2008. The other was the loss of Robert Louis-Dreyfus, who passed away in the summer of 2009.
Throughout the financial crisis, the Group followed the strategy set out by Robert: By diversifying its portfolio and making strategic investments, LDC became stronger than ever before. We invested in our Oilseeds capabilities in Asia, and in sugarcane processing facilities and plantations in Brazil. The following two years saw further investment in fixed assets and logistics network enhancements, with facilities in Canada, the US and Germany added to our portfolio. Other key acquisitions included a US-listed sugar company, a leading international dairy trading company and one of Brazil’s largest corn milling operators.
Building on Robert’s legacy, by 2014 the Group’s net sales had doubled compared to 2009, cementing our position as a leading, global player in the commodities industry. Inspired by the past and looking to the future, the Group re-defined its strategy in 2016, with a renewed focus on consolidating its relationship with customers, suppliers and employees, and its role as a global merchant of agricultural goods. To mark this new chapter in the company’s history, the Group was renamed Louis Dreyfus Company (LDC).
Beyond any doubt, our history has given us much to be proud of. We have continued the journey that Léopold started in 1851, and that other leaders from the Louis-Dreyfus family have followed. Today, our mission is to use our know-how and global reach to bring the right product to the right location, at the right time, meeting our customers’ and partners’ needs and expectations, safely and sustainably.
That is how we intend to continue writing our story.
This post is the last of a 3-part series about LDC’s beginnings. To discover more about our history, read Part 1 and Part 2, or visit the Our Heritage section on our website.
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