Dwayne O. Andreas, Who Turned Archer Daniels Midland Into Food Giant, Dies at 98

Source: By KEITH SCHNEIDER, New York Times • Posted: Thursday, November 17, 2016

Dwayne O. Andreas, an executive whose mastery of the global grain trade and the levers of political power turned the Archer Daniels Midland Company into a farm products giant and pushed it to the front ranks of American industry, died on Wednesday in Decatur, Ill. He was 98.

The company confirmed his death.

No farm industrialist of the 20th century navigated the world’s seats of power as easily as Mr. Andreas. He was as familiar to heads of state in Washington, Moscow and London as almost any top American diplomat. Slim and slight as a jockey, he achieved outsize stature in the White House, in Congress and among the agencies and councils of influence that are critical to an industry so mightily swayed by government authority.

Sometimes he and his company ran afoul of those authorities. One federal investigation led to a $100 million fine in 1996 for fixing prices, a record penalty in a criminal antitrust case at the time.

But more often he courted and was courted by some of the world’s most powerful political figures. During the nearly 30 years he controlled the company, he and A.D.M. were among the most generous financiers of congressional and presidential campaigns, Democratic and Republican alike.

At the same time, the company, based in Decatur, was helping to feed nearly every American and billions more people around the world. Archer Daniels Midland’s high-fructose corn syrup sweetened soft drinks. Its soybeans and feed additives increased milk production and fattened hogs, cattle and chickens. It manufactured cocoa and cocoa butter for chocolates and cakes. Its corn ethanol fueled vehicles.

The scale of the global enterprise that Mr. Andreas built had few equals. In 1970, when he was named chairman and chief executive, Archer Daniels Midland’s soybean exports totaled $1.5 billion. By 1999, when he retired as chairman, the figure was $7 billion, and the company was the biggest processor in the industry.

The company, founded in 1902 by George A. Archer and John W. Daniels as a linseed-crushing business (it acquired the Midland Linseed Products Company in 1923), grew almost tenfold under Mr. Andreas’s watch. In 1999, it employed more than 23,000 people and operated in 50 countries.

Today, A.D.M. controls much of the world’s cocoa, wheat, corn, soybean and oil seed production.

“The food business is far and away the most important business in the world,” Mr. Andreas once said. “Everything else is a luxury.”

For viewers of American public affairs television, the company under Mr. Andreas became a household name. Calling itself “the supermarket to the world,” it was a prominent advertiser on ABC’s Sunday morning political talk show “This Week With David Brinkley” and a leading underwriter of “The MacNeil-Lehrer NewsHour” on PBS.

Mr. Andreas often said that the central objective of his life was to provide food for the world’s hungry. In the 1950s he pressed members of Congress to support the Food for Peace grain-export program; President John F. Kennedy appointed him to the American Food for Peace Council. (In 1978, the company was convicted of fixing prices on grain sold to the program, though Mr. Andreas was not charged.)

Mr. Andreas counted among his friends Presidents Richard M. Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, as well as the Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev. He worked with all of them to open and expand farm export markets, particularly for soybeans. He was largely responsible for making soybeans a top American agricultural export.

As he cultivated political connections, Mr. Andreas was courted in return. In 1984, while seeking re-election, Reagan visited the company’s headquarters in Decatur. Mr. Andreas commissioned a seven-foot bronze statue of the president to commemorate the event.

Several members of Mr. Andreas’s family held senior positions at the company or served on its board, and he and they controlled nearly 8 percent of its publicly traded shares, ranking them among the wealthiest families in the United States.

Mr. Andreas kept a low public profile, rarely giving interviews. His circumspection was appreciated by the many heads of state with whom he met on overseas trips; they sometimes relied on him to carry out diplomatic missions discreetly. In 1985 he helped arrange the first meeting between Reagan and Mr. Gorbachev.

He was particularly close to Nixon, who opened China’s markets to A.D.M.’s grain. In 1972, an anonymous $25,000 cash gift from Mr. Andreas to Nixon’s campaign ended up in the bank account of Bernard Barker, a Watergate burglar. According to the sworn testimony of Rosemary Woods, the president’s secretary, an additional $100,000 cash contribution that Mr. Andreas had made to the president was found unspent in a White House safe and returned to him.

Mr. Andreas’s lavish campaign spending attracted powerful adversaries. The Justice Department investigated him and A.D.M. four times in the 1970s. In 1974, he was acquitted of federal charges of making an illegal $100,000 contribution to Hubert H. Humphrey’s 1968 presidential campaign. The acquittal came the same year that the Senate Watergate committee criticized the handling of a $362,000 donation of Archer Daniels Midland stock that Mr. Andreas had made to Humphrey’s 1972 primary campaign.

Another federal investigation, in the 1990s, led to the company’s record $100 million fine in a global price-fixing conspiracy. Three top executives — one of them Mr. Andreas’s only son, Michael, the vice chairman — were convicted in 1998 and sentenced to prison. Mr. Andreas had been granted immunity from prosecution.

Mr. Andreas was also a significant contributor to the senatorial and presidential campaigns of Senator Bob Dole, the Kansas Republican. Mr. Dole was the architect and primary supporter of the federally subsidized ethanol fuel market and the federal price-support program for sugar. Both government efforts heavily influenced the corn and high-fructose corn syrup processing business, which earned A.D.M. billions in revenue each year.

Fred Wertheimer, the former director of Common Cause, the public interest advocacy group, called Mr. Andreas’s political activities “a classic example of how the corporate welfare game in Washington works.”

“He provides huge amounts of political influence money,” Mr. Wertheimer told The Washington Post in 1995, “and his company receives huge economic benefits, courtesy of the American taxpayer.”

Mr. Andreas defended his political contributions as a necessary investment in business. He referred to the practice as “tithing,” likening it to his family’s donations to their Mennonite church when he was growing up in Iowa.

“I was raised to believe you’re supposed to support your mayor and your congressman and your politicians,” he told The New York Times in 1990. Five years later, in testimony before a Senate Agriculture subcommittee, he said, “When it comes to agriculture, there is no such thing as the free market.”

Dwayne Orville Andreas was born in Worthington, Minn., on March 4, 1918, the fifth of six children of Reuben and Lydia Andreas. His father moved the family to Lisbon, Iowa, where he purchased a grain elevator and raised livestock on a small farm. Dwayne began working at the elevator when he was 9.

The family changed the name of the business from Reuben & Sons to Honeymead Products in 1936. Three years later they moved it to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where they built a processing plant to manufacture soybean meal for feed. By this time Mr. Andreas had briefly attended Wheaton College in Illinois, and his younger brother Lowell had become active in the business. (Lowell Andreas was later president of Archer Daniels Midland. He died in 2009.)

Honeymead became one of the largest soybean processors in the country. In 1945, after Reuben Andreas suffered several strokes, the family sold the plant, but not the Honeymead name, to the private Minnesota-based grain company Cargill.

Dwayne Andreas went to work for Cargill as a vice president. That year he met and befriended Humphrey, who had just been elected mayor of Minneapolis. Humphrey became a political mentor to Mr. Andreas and the godfather of his son, Michael; Mr. Andreas became a major donor to Humphrey’s Senate and presidential campaigns.

In 1947, Dwayne and Lowell Andreas bought a soybean plant in Mankato, Minn., and named it the Honeymead Products Company. That same year, Dwayne married Dorothy Inez, a single mother of a little girl.

Mr. Andreas’s wife died a few years ago. He is survived by his son; two daughters, Terry Andreas and Sandra McMurtrie; nine grandchildren; and 23 great-grandchildren.

By 1952, Mr. Andreas had resigned from Cargill to help his brother run Honeymead. They turned it into the largest soybean processor in the nation.

In 1960 a larger company, Farmers Union Grain Terminal Association, bought out the brothers for a sum large enough to enable them to start a banking company, which became National City Bank. Farmers Union then hired Dwayne as executive vice president, while Lowell managed the banking business.

Dwayne Andreas was 48 in 1966 and already a well-known Minnesota grain merchant when the Archer and Daniels families asked him and his brother to become executives and minority shareholders in their midsize farm products company. Lowell became president in 1967; Dwayne became chief executive in 1970 and then chairman. He stepped down as chief executive in 1997; two years later he also stepped down as chairman, succeeded by a nephew, G. Allen Andreas.

Though much of Mr. Andreas’s access to power stemmed from his political contributions, another source of influence was in Bal Harbour, Fla., where in the early 1950s he helped found the Sea View Hotel, a cooperative.

Having bought an apartment there (he also continued to live in Decatur), he recruited others to do the same, among them Senator Dole; Thomas P. O’Neill, the House speaker; Howard H. Baker Jr., the Senate Republican leader; Robert S. Strauss, the Democratic power broker and at one point an Archer Daniels Midland board member; Thomas E. Dewey, the former governor of New York; and David Brinkley, a close friend, who, after retiring from ABC, was criticized for doing television commercials for the company.

In January 1994, Senator Dole, while being interviewed by Mr. Brinkley for “This Week” from his Sea View apartment, invited Mr. Brinkley to “come on down.” In an odd bit of serendipity, the interview was followed by a commercial for Archer Daniels Midland.