History of Central Soya Co., Inc. and of the McMillen Family's Work with Soybeans and Soy Ingredients (1934-2020)

William Shurtleff; Akiko AoyagiISBN: 978-1-948436-24-3

Publication Date: 2020 Aug. 17

Number of References in Bibliography: 1088

Earliest Reference: 1934

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Brief Chronology/Timeline of Central Soya

1880 Jan. 27 – Dale W. McMillen was born in a large, well furnished log cabin near Van Wert, Ohio. His parents were Joseph Warren McMillen (1855-1922) and Mary Jane Wilmore (1858-1916). He was the first child and eldest of nine children. Aspiring to be a lawyer, he attended Oberlin College entering with the class of 1904. But in 1901, at the end of his sophomore year, his father's serious (though temporary) illness forced him to drop out to run the family's thriving grain elevator business.

1904 Feb. 22 – He married Agnes Dell Stewart in Battle Creek, Michigan. With the marriage came a gift from his father. He was taken into partnership and the firm became known as McMillen and Son. He soon proved himself to be a born salesman and trader. After an unsuccessful wheat-growing venture in Texas, the family settled in Fort Wayne in 1911 (McMillen 1967; Central Soya 1984).

1916 – At age 36, Dale W. McMillen left this secure position to go into business on his own. With $2,000 down, he purchased the Egley Doan Elevator, a small grain elevator in Fort Wayne, Indiana, for $10,000 and founded the McMillen Company to manufacture quality livestock feeds, named Wayne Feeds – after General Anthony Wayne – a man of courage and daring. McMillen agreed with the experts at agricultural colleges who, at that time, claimed that most feeds made by commercial manufacturers were not economical for farmers to buy. So McMillen started to make and promote a new type of feed, called concentrates or supplements, which provided about 30% rather than 100% of the total ration. These concentrates contained protein, vitamins, and minerals designed to be mixed with grains that farmers could grow themselves. The result was a more economical, yet nutritionally complete, ration.

While developing his feed business, McMillen had become very interested in soybeans, then a relatively new crop, whose potential had been established primarily as a forage or hay crop and as a soil conditioner. By the late 1920s there was a growing interest in using the soybean's seeds to produce oil and meal, but only a handful of companies had been successful at commercial soybean crushing. The best known of these was the A.E. Staley Manufacturing Company, which started in 1922. McMillen undertook the challenge of developing what he saw as the soybean's greater potential. Above all he believed that soybean meal could become an important ingredient in livestock and poultry feeds.

1927 – The American Milling Company started its pioneering work crushing soybeans. Before the end of 1929 McMillen had merged his company with American Milling Co. to form Allied Mills; he served as its first president.

1929 Oct. 29 – Black Friday. The U.S. stock market crashes. The Great Depression gripped America.

1931 ca. – McMillen played a key role in founding Soya Products, an early and innovative soybean marketing organization (Cavanagh. 1959. p. 361, 367). Although Allied Mills did well, McMillen, an independent man who liked to make his own decisions, eventually began to feel restricted by the big, new company; he left after about 2 years, to strike out on his own once again.

1933 – America was in the Great Depression. McMillen, now almost 54 years old, was financially secure and had a successful business career behind him. At an age when most people are thinking seriously about retiring, McMillen decided to start a new company in a new field. In Decatur, Indiana, he bought an old, abandoned sugar mill named Central Sugar. He drove out the sparrows, put the men back to work, and began processing sugar from sugar beets. It was within the walls of that old sugar company that Central Soya Company was born. McMillen realized that by adding a soybean crushing plant to the sugar beet processing facilities he would have three important ingredients for livestock feed: protein-rich soybean meal, high-calorie molasses, and beet pulp. The oil could be used in a variety of food and industrial products (McMillen 1967; Central Soya 1984a).

1934 Oct. 2 – H.W. McMillen (known as “Mr. Mac” by every one who knew him) founded and incorporated Central Soya Company in Decatur, Indiana, with an initial capitalization of $125,000. He merged his first love, livestock feeds, with his latest one, soybeans. Yet in doing so he boldly staked his business future on a largely unknown crop of unproven potential.

1959 – By this date, Central Soya had probably spent more money advertising in Soybean Digest than any other company; in this way it helped the fledgling monthly magazine to get established.

For the rest of this story, from 1934 to 1985 see Shurtleff and Aoyagi 1985 – in this book. Key events after mid-1984:

1984 Oct. 2 – Central Soya celebrates its 50th anniversary. A good history of the company is sent to each shareholder together with the 1984 annual report.

1985 March 14 – Central Soya received an unsolicited conditional proposal from Shamrock Holdings Inc. to purchase the 89% of Central Soya Co. it did not already control, for $23 a share. Shamrock, privately owned by the Roy E. Disney family (Roy was a nephew of Walt Disney) and based in Burbank, California, felt that the stock market was undervaluing Central Soya because of short term low profits (Wall Street Journal. 1985. March 15, p. 27). On April 1 Central Soya agreed to the attractive bid from Disney's Shamrock Capital, a limited partnership created by Shamrock Holdings to buy Central Soya, to pay about $303 million, or $24.25 for the remaining shares (Rowe 1985; Investor's Daily. 1985. April 2, p. 9).

1987 Oct. – The Ferruzzi Group of, Ravenna, Italy acquires Central Soya from Shamrock Holdings. Shamrock made a profit of $125 million. It is contemplated by Ferruzzi that Central Soya will continue to operate as an autonomous business unit from its Fort Wayne headquarters under its existing management team.

1990 Jan. 1 – Effective today, Ferruzzi-owned crushing operations were organized into a new company, Cereol. The Central Soya facility in Utrecht, The Netherlands was sold to this group in early 1900.

1992 Nov. – Central Soya purchased the Protein Division of Aarhus Oliefabrik A/S, located in Aarhus, Denmark. “This will strategically position Central Soya to take advantage of the dynamic changes taking place in the EC, Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States,” said David Swanson, Chairman, President, and CEO of Central Soya.

1993 July 23 – Raul Gardini, the very dashing, former head of Ferruzzi who also had a sailing boat in the Americas cup, committed suicide (blew his brains out) in Milan in a political corruption scandal in Italy.

2002 Oct. – Bunge purchased a 55% controlling stake in Cereol from Edison S.p.A. of Italy.

2002 Dec. 6 – Bunge completed its acquisition a 97.38% stake in Cereol SA, of France, which owns Central Soya. The cost: $1.55 billion. Bunge wants to be the largest U.S. and North American oilseed crusher and the world's leading soybean crusher. Bunge is already No. 1 in South America in South America in soybean processing (Journal News {White Plains, NY}. 2002. Oct. 16. p. 4A, 4D; Journal News. 2002. Dec. 6. p. 41).

On 1 April 2003 the Central Soya name disappears as the company is folded into Bunge – more precisely into Solae.

Click here to download the full text to open and read book History of Central Soya Co., Inc. and of the McMillen Family's Work with Soybeans and Soy Ingredients (1934-2020)