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Agrium CEO Wilson to retire at year-end, COO Magro to lead fertilizer giant

CALGARY - After a decade at the helm of Agrium Inc., CEO Mike Wilson will retire at year-end and pass the reins to the fertilizer giant's chief operating officer.

Chuck Magro, who had a long career at petrochemical company Nova Chemicals before taking on various leadership roles at Calgary-based Agrium, will become CEO on Jan. 1.

Magro, who has been COO since last year, will join the board of directors immediately.

"I am confident that with Chuck's leadership skills and industry experience, combined with the strength of our executive leadership team, the company will continue to build on Agrium's high performance culture to drive operational excellence and bring value to all of our key stakeholders," Wilson said.

Wilson started at Agrium as chief operating officer in 2000 and became CEO in 2003. He'll remain on the Agrium board until the next annual general meeting in the spring.

"On behalf of the entire board of directors, I would like to express my thanks to Mike for his drive, dedication and leadership in implementing our integrated strategy and very successful expansionary phase that was envisioned nearly a decade ago," said board chair Victor Zaleschuk.

"The success of our strategy has resulted in Agrium's share price increasing by over 500 per cent in the past decade."

Wilson recently led the company through a bitter proxy fight with its biggest shareholder. Agrium ultimately prevailed in the heated, often personal battle with New York hedge fund Jana Partners, which concluded in April.

Wilson also ushered Agrium through a number of high-profile retail acquisitions during his tenure, including Royster Clark for $590 million in 2006 and UAP Holding Corp. for $2.65 billion in 2008. More recently, Agrium bought Viterra's retail outlets in Western Canada from Glencore Xstrata PLC.

But not all of Agrium's acquisition attempts have been successful during Wilson's run as CEO. In 2010, Agrium walked away from a year-long quest to take over U.S. nitrogen producer CF Industries Holdings Inc., which instead ended up acquiring U.S. rival Terra Industries Inc.

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