Nutrien changes title of sole Saskatchewan executive to include ‘CEO,’ but government still not happy

Days after the provincial government raised red flags about legislation requiring its chief executive work in the province, the world’s largest fertilizer company changed the title of its sole senior executive living in Saskatchewan to include “CEO.”

Nutrien Ltd. appointed Susan Jones as its new president of potash — a title carried over from Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan Inc., where it was in use since at least 2001 — earlier this year. Jones is now listed as the company’s CEO of Potash.

The company also changed the titles of two other executives: Its former president of retail and president of phosphate and nitrogen. Raef Sully is now listed as CEO of Phosphate and Nitrogen, while Michael J. Frank is now CEO of Retail.

Susan Jones is the only Nutrien Ltd. executive living in Saskatchewan.

Nutrien spokesman Will Tigley said the decision was made for “business reasons” and had been in the works for “a few months.” The timing was “coincidental” and not intended to appease the provincial government, he said.

It’s not clear if the title changes come with additional responsibilities. They are intended to better reflect the three executives’ roles within the new company, Tigley said.

The changes are unlikely to assuage the government’s fears — first articulated last year by then-Premier Brad Wall — about where Nutrien’s most senior executives live and work following the merger that created it.

Premier Scott Moe “remains concerned” about the business locations of Nutrien’s executives, and is expected to address the matter in a meeting with the company’s CEO and board chair this month, said James Parker, a spokesman for Moe.

“Our government continues to look at options to ensure that Nutrien is fulfilling its obligations and commitments,” Parker said Thursday.

The title changes came days after the Saskatoon StarPhoenix reported that Jones was the only one of Nutrien’s senior executives living in Saskatchewan. Most of the rest, including CEO Chuck Magro, reside in Calgary, which appears to be its main base of operations.

Nutrien President and CEO Chuck Magro announces the results of Nutrien’s Matching Gift Campaign at the Saskatoon Food Bank and Learning Centre on Feb. 8, 2018.

According to the 1994 Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan Reorganization Act, PotashCorp and its successors created through amalgamations or reorganizations must maintain “head office functions” in the province.

The act, which was passed to allow PotashCorp to become a publicly-traded company in 1989 and subsequently amended, also mandates that the company’s chief executive officer and chief financial officer work in Saskatchewan.

The provincial government insists the act applies to Nutrien. The company has so far refused to provide its view on the matter, with a spokesman saying only that is a point of discussion for the upcoming meeting with government officials.

While Moe has refused to say whether he believes Nutrien is violating the legislation, Attorney General and Justice Minister Don Morgan was asked the same question in Saskatoon last week. He responded with a simple “Yes.”

Nutrien was created on Jan. 1 when PotashCorp merged with Agrium Inc. in a deal worth US$26 billion.

Under Wall, the provincial government has twice previously threatened to use the legislation to keep the company’s head office operations in Saskatchewan: During BHP’s failed takeover bid in 2010, and again in the lead-up to the merger.

Moe has since been criticized by the Saskatchewan NDP for failing to maintain his predecessor’s firm stance on the matter.

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