One-on-One With Wilbur-Ellis CEO John Buckley

John Buckley, CEO of Wilbur-Ellis ( Wilbur-Ellis )

Right after Wilbur-Ellis announced its biggest acquisition to-date – acquiring Nachurs Alpine Solutions (NAS) – CEO John Buckley gave AgPro a one-on-one interview. 

“This is the seventh acquisition Wilbur-Ellis has made this year,” Buckley explains. “Four were in agriculture, two were in specialty chemicals in Asia, and one was in animal nutrition. We have a history as a company of reinvesting in the business. We are a family-owned company, and our ownership wants to continue building the business.”

Prior to the NAS acquisition, Wilbur-Ellis was organized into three business units: ag retail, animal nutrition and specialty chemicals. With NAS, Wilbur-Ellis now has a fourth business unit. 

“When we looked at the opportunity to acquire NAS, it was certainly attractive to see their participation in the ag market. But what was really appealing was the breadth of their technology, which includes a specialty chemicals division, because we know that market too,” Buckley says.

He notes that acquiring NAS will also expand the Wilbur-Ellis footprint beyond its current reach into the eastern U.S. and Canada. Additionally, while NAS and the company’s Agribusiness division will remain separate in their day-to-day operations, Buckley noted there are opportunities for the two organizations to share knowledge, helping them better serve customers and gain synergies. “We have tremendously knowledgeable and talented people. And by working collaboratively, each organization can benefit,” he said.

The acquisition also enlarges Wilbur-Ellis’ role as a manufacturer, with NAS’ seven production plants. “Traditionally, our acquisitions in agriculture have been multiple location ag retail businesses. And while we talk about being a pure-play retailer, we are already a manufacturer of a lot of products. NAS just increases that,” Buckley says. “We want to continue making high-quality NAS products. As we integrate the business, we’ll make NAS an even better supplier, and they’ll make Wilbur-Ellis better as well.” 

As for the future, Buckley says this acquisition reveals some of the company’s strategy in serving agriculture. 

“Change is afoot,” he says. “There are a lot of new technologies coming in. There are pressures on our customers, and it has been an intense weather year. Trade uncertainty has also added to the challenges. Given all this, we think that to be a sustainable business in ag we need to have more technology, not less. We need to invest more, not less. So, we’re really doubling down and saying we’re here for the long-term.” 

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