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Production at Deere Harvester Works in East Moline.
The Deere and Mansur Co. factory in Moline as it appeared in an artist's rendidtion from the late 1800s.
Robert W. Lane, chairman and chief executive officer of Deere & Company.
For the first 145 years of Deere & Co.'s history, founder John Deere or a Deere family relative ran the company.
Yet, the John Deere Co. had grown into a worldwide agricultural equipment leader long before Robert A. Hanson succeeded the last family member, William Hewitt, in 1982. Mr. Hanson was the sixth chief executive and first company leader unrelated to the Deere family.
In the past 25 years, Mr. Hanson (1982-1990), his successor Hans W. Becherer (1990-2000) and current president Robert W. Lane (elected in 2000) have solidified Deere's presence in the global arena.
They did that through their own education foundation and leadership training, with help from a professional management team and an increasingly talented and diverse board of directors.
Following a national trend in the early 1990s, Deere cut the size of its board and shifted control to outside directors, each having specific expertise that would help the company develop in new ways. A decade earlier, Deere's board had 17 directors, including 11 employees and six non-employees.
The Deere board will be reduced to 12 members, with Mr. Lane as the one Deere employee-director, after the company's next annual meeting on Feb. 28.
The 1993 initiative came from Mr. Becherer, according to Samuel C. Johnson and John R. Block, both outside directors who served on the nominating committee at the time.
Mr. Becherer was trying "to insure (that) we have a mix of ... expertise and support, knowledge and guidance of policy decisions from a wide variety of directors," Mr. Block said in a news article in The Dispatch and The Rock Island Argus in February 1993.
Mr. Johnson, the second independent director named to the Deere board, acknowledged he may have had some influence. His own company, Johnson Wax, had been controlled by an independent board since his father initiated the idea.
Now Deere's directors have expertise in accounting and finance, automotive and electrical components, aerospace, defense and information technology. One director is the dean of the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, Evanston.
The talent and connectivity within Deere also has increased.
Mr. Becherer had an MBA from Harvard and was based in Mannheim, Germany, as general manager of Deere exporting before becoming vice president, senior vice president and company president and COO.
Under Mr. Becherer's leadership, Deere achieved new high levels of performance in financial results, expanded product lines, initiated unprecedented product quality and innovation and greatly expanded geographic growth, according to the company.
Mr. Lane, a native of Arlington, Va., joined Deere after a career in commercial banking. He has an MBA from the University of Chicago. He managed Deere's governmental and national-account sales, served as head of Deere Credit Inc. and directed Deere's operations in Latin America, the Far East, Australia and South Africa.
He was named senior vice president and chief financial officer in 1996, preceeding his 1998 move to Germany. He was promoted to company president and chief operating officer after four months as president of Deere's Worldwide Agricultural Equipment Division, based in Moline.
Under Mr. Lane's leadership, Deere has driven profits through operating efficiencies and becoming better able to prosper in all economic cycles.
Deere reported record earnings for 2006 for a third consecutive year. Net income for 2006 was $1.06 billion on total net sales and revenues of $22.15 billion. Last year's sale of John Deere Health Care added more than $200 million to reported earnings.
Earnings per share from continuing operations rose 7 percent. Construction and forestry and credit operations had record results. Deere's ag-equipment operations remained "strongly profitable" despite lackluster markets in many parts of the world, Mr. Lane said in a letter to shareholders.
Mr. Lane's top priority is to drive the John Deere brand to a broader worldwide audience.
"Rigorous asset management remains the linchpin of our strategy to deliver higher amounts of economic profits on a more consistent basis," Mr. Lane wrote to shareholders in December 2006. "Much of our success controlling assets has resulted from investments in improved efficiency and the adoption of related operating process."
He used the company's Waterloo, Iowa, tractor factory, where a $140 million multiyear project is nearly complete, as an example.
"We press ahead, therefore, in the belief that our company has what it takes to bring our goals within reach and make John Deere, the business, and John Deere, the investment, as well-regarded as the products bearing our brand," he wrote to shareholders.
"To all those we are privileged to serve, we say thanks for your support," he said. "We pledge to earn your continued loyalty by delivering performance that endures."
Deere & Co. leaders
1837-1886: Founder and president John Deere, a blacksmith, develops a self-scouring plow and establishes a plow factory in Moline.
1886-1907: President Charles Deere, John Deere's son, known as an outstanding businessman, established branch marketing centers.
1907-1928: President William Butterworth, a son-in-law of Charles Deere, centralizes accounting and financial planning, enters the crop-harvesting business and buys several farm equipment manufacturers.
1928-1936: Mr. Butterworth served as Deere's chairman.
1928-1955: President Charles Deere Wiman, a grandson of John Deere, and Burton Peek, interim president during the war years, emphasized engineering and product development.
1955-1964, president, and 1964-1982, chairman: William A. Hewitt, Wiman's son-in-law, leads through one of the company's greatest periods of growth with worldwide operations.
1982-1990: Robert A. Hanson, chairman and chief executive and first head unrelated to the Deere family, guides the company through one of Deere's most difficult economic periods.
1990-2000: Hans W. Becherer, chairman and chief executive as the company continues to develop international operations.
2000-present: Robert Lane, chairman and chief executive.