Fraley to depart as Bayer announces execs under merger with Monsanto

Bayer AG on May 7 announced the selection of its new executive leadership team for its Crop Science division, which will go into effect as of the closing of Bayer’s proposed acquisition of Monsanto, which is still subject to pending regulatory approval. Bayer and Monsanto continue to work closely with regulators in order to close the transaction in second quarter 2018.

Notable by its absence in the announcement is the name of Monsanto’s executive vice president and chief technology officer, Robert Fraley, Ph.D. Fraley, along with fellow American Mary-Dell Chilton and Marc Van Montagu of Belgium were recipients of the 2013 World Food Prize for prize officials called “their independent, individual breakthrough achievements in founding, developing, and applying modern agricultural biotechnology. Their research is making it possible for farmers to grow crops with: improved yields; resistance to insects and disease; and the ability to tolerate extreme variations in climate.”

Fraley has, according to a Monsanto release, “played a key role in the company’s choice of research directions that led to viable finished products, and the technical and business strategy that ensured wide availability and benefit to farmers of all sizes around the world. He has especially championed making biotechnology accessible to small-holder farmers.”

Fraley, a native of Wellington, Illinois, earned his Ph.D. in microbiology and biochemistry from the University of Illinois in 1978. He did post-doctoral research in biophysics at the University of California-San Francisco.

Hired by Monsanto in 1981 as a research specialist, Fraley led a plant molecular biology group that worked on developing better crops through genetic engineering to solve problems such as pest and weed infestations. His early research built upon the discoveries of Chilton and Van Montagu as he focused on inventing effective methods for gene transfer systems.

A breakthrough occurred when Fraley and his team isolated a bacterial marker gene and engineered it to express in plant cells. By inserting that gene into Agrobacterium, they were able to transfer an immunity trait into petunia and tobacco cells. Fraley and his team produced the first transgenic plants using the Agrobacterium transformation process, and presented these findings at the Miami Biochemistry Winter Symposium.

“With his team of researchers, Fraley developed more elaborate plant transformations of an array of crops, which leading to the widespread accessibility of farmers across the globe to genetically modified seeds with resistance to insect and weed pests, and with tolerance to changes in climate such as excessive heat and drought,” a Monsanto statement read. “Plant breeders now have the ability to understand the genetic composition of every seed, and farmers have more tools than ever before to ensure that they can grow higher yielding crops.

“In 1996, Fraley led the successful introduction of genetically engineered soybeans that were resistant to the herbicide glyphosate, commercially known as Roundup. When planting these ‘Roundup Ready’ crops, a farmer was able to spray an entire field with glyphosate—and only the weeds would be eliminated, leaving the crop plants alive and thriving.”

Bayer’s new executive leadership team will be led by Liam Condon, who continues to serve as a member of Bayer’s board of management and as president of the Crop Science Division headquartered in Monheim, Germany. He is also responsible for Bayer’s Animal Health business unit.

Also departing the merged corporation at the closing of the acquisition is Monsanto Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Hugh Grant and several other top Monsanto managers.

 “Liam Condon brings over 25 years of experience in leading and growing businesses in the agriculture and health industries. We are convinced that he will successfully lead the combined Crop Science business,” said Werner Wenning, chairman of the supervisory board of Bayer AG.

“I would like to sincerely thank the leadership teams at Bayer and Monsanto—and especially Monsanto CEO Hugh Grant—for their tremendous support throughout the transaction process,” said Werner Baumann, chairman of the board of management of Bayer AG.

The executive leadership team of the merged firm will be comprised of officials responsible for combined business activities of Bayer’s Crop Science Division and Monsanto following the closing of the acquisition. Officials will be based both in Monheim and St. Louis, Missouri.

Two current Monsanto officials will assume much of Fraley’s work. Robert Reiter, Ph.D. will be head of research and development. He is the current technology integration planning lead at Monsanto. He will be based in Monheim.

Frank Terhorst will become head of crop strategy and portfolio management, based in St. Louis.

 “The combination with Bayer will be a historic day for Monsanto, reinforcing the value of our business and the remarkable foundation our global team of more than 20,000 employees has built over the years,” Grant added. “While I have made the decision to pursue new opportunities following the closing of the transaction, I will continue to be an advocate for agriculture and look forward to always being a voice in the conversation. My enthusiasm and excitement for what is ahead with Bayer, and the opportunity the combined company will have to support growers in their effort to be more productive, more profitable and more sustainable, is stronger than ever.”

Larry Dreiling can be reached at 785-628-1117 or [email protected].


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