VERO BEACH, FLORIDA, US — Whitney MacMillan, the last founding family member to run Cargill, died on March 11 in Vero Beach, Florida, US, of natural causes. He was 90.
MacMillan spent 44 years with the company, which was founded by his great-grandfather W.W. Cargill, including 20 years as chief executive officer. He retired as chairman in 1995 and was the last of the MacMillan and Cargill families to serve as a senior executive.
MacMillan played a key role in expanding the company around the globe, growing its presence from 31 to 53 countries and quadrupling its number of employees.
He also led the company during rapid growth and transformation that saw the addition of canola, cocoa, cotton, malt and fertilizer to the company’s portfolio, along with beef and pork processing. He moved executive leadership away from the family, adding independent directors to its board and an employee stock-ownership plan.
MacMillan was born 1929 to Cargill MacMillan and Pauline Whitney MacMillan. He earned a history degree from Yale University. He started with Cargill as a general trainee and rose through the ranks with positions in San Francisco, California, US; Minneapolis, Minnesota, US; and the Philippines.
MacMillan, with a net worth of $5.1 billion, was listed on the Forbes 400 as the 128th richest American in 2019. He served on numerous boards including the International Peace Institute, the EastWest Institute, the Salzburg Global Seminar and the University of Minnesota's Humphrey School of Public Affairs.
He and his wife Betty founded the WEM Foundation, which supported dozens of organizations mostly in Minnesota, Florida and Africa. They included the Guthrie Theater, Smithsonian Institution, Mayo Clinic, Project for Pride in Living and Westminster Presbyterian Church.