and inspiring its people to perform beyond expectations in pursuit of this vision. His total commitment is to deliver results,” says Hendrik A. Verfaillie, Monsanto’s executive vice president. “He combines the capacity of seeing the big picture with the agility of excellent execution.” These enviable traits have garnered Arnold W. Donald the distinction as the 1997 BLACK ENTERPRISE Executive of the Year.
FEEDING THE WORLD
The 18th century English philosopher Rev. Thomas Malthus predicted that, unless checked, the world population would eventually outgrow its food supply. While economists and philosophers have poked holes in the Malthusian philosophy over the centuries, the reality is that there are 5.8 billion people on this earth and that number is projected to be 7.7 billion by the year 2020. At Monsanto, Malthus’ ominous call to action was heard 17 years ago when the company first delved into the biotechnology arena. The fourth largest diversified chemical company in the U.S., behind Du Pont, Dow and Occidental, Monsanto is the maker of NutraSweet brand sweetener and one of the world’s top manufacturers of agricultural and chemical products and prescription drugs.
“Monsanto is absolutely at the forefront of the agriculture biotech industry,” says Paul Leming, an analyst with Deutsche Morgan Grenfell in New York. “This area currently offers one of the largest business opportunities for the future. It will provide the continued ability to feed and clothe the planet, while allowing more production on a given acre of land.” Shareholders seem to agree. Since July 1996, the price of Monsanto shares has grown from $32.25 to $43.88. “Crop protection is Monsanto’s single largest profit center–it is the heart,” states Leslie Ravitz, a Morgan Stanley analyst in New York. “The next few years are looking good for Monsanto and will be very profitable.”
TILLING A CAREER TRACK
Walking down the halls of the company’s Chesterfield, Missouri, R&D building, Donald is the first to say hello to the few sneaker and jeans clad researchers milling around on the day before the long Fourth of July weekend. Among rows of laboratory greenhouses, a lone cotton bush with light brown bulbs stands out in a sea of traditional snow whites. In a lab more than 1,000 miles away, blue ones are also in bloom. Noting the surprised looks on the faces of the lay people in attendance, Donald tries to allay any fears, “We are experimenting with different colors. The blue one is being grown in California,” he explains, adding that, if successful, these hybrids will soon revolutionize the textile market, giving denim and khaki manufacturers little use for dyes.
A tall man, Donald’s striking presence would be intimidating were it not buffered by his jocular nature. When not cloaked in a polo shirt or sweater, he accents his business suits with novelty ties etched with DNA double helixes or caricatures. He seems to be smiling even when he isn’t, particularly when he speaks about growing up in New Orleans’ Desire area. “It was a tough neighborhood,” says Donald, who grew up in the home his