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DRC selects Fred Webber as next CEO

by Tim Linden | September 22, 2011

Longtime employee Fred Webber will become the new president and chief executive officer at the Canadian-based Dispute Resolution Corp. when Stephen Whitney, the current CEO, retires at the end of this year.

Mr. Whitney announced his pending retirement earlier this year, which led to an executive, search process by a committee of the DRC.

Fred Webber, current vice president of trading assistance at the Dispute Resolution Corp., will become chief executive officer upon the retirement of current CEO Stephen Whitney at the end of the year.

DRC Chairman Matt McInerney, who is also the executive vice president at Western Growers Association, based in Irvine, CA, said that the committee received dozens of applications and eventually narrowed the list of candidates down to five. Mr. Webber was chosen after what Mr. McInerney called “a thoughtful and thorough review. We picked the best guy for the job.”

He added that Mr. Webber’s experience in the industry, which includes more than 20 years in dispute resolution, as well as his relationship with the DRC since it was founded 11 years ago, made him a natural to lead the DRC.

“We always knew that we had a great talent in Fred but during the review process it became obvious that he is also the best person to lead the organization,” said Mr. McInerney.

Mr. Webber is currently vice president of trading assistance for DRC, a position he has held since 1999. He grew up on a grain and livestock farm in the Midwest but took his talents to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act Branch in the mid-1980s, where he remained for several years as a marketing specialist.

In 1989, Mr. Webber joined the Blue Book and worked for that organization for 16 years. In 1999, the newly formed DRC contracted with the Blue Book to provide trading assistance, with Mr. Webber being the person providing that service. In 2005, DRC brought that service -- and Mr. Webber -- in-house.

“I look forward to this new challenge,” Mr. Webber told The Produce News. “The foundation that was laid here is very good so I do not anticipate any major changes. We do need to go back and look at our U.S. membership and try to expand membership to more areas.”

Mr. Webber said that when DRC was launched, the organization spent resources conducting a recognition campaign making sure that shippers in Canada, Mexico and the United States were aware of the organization and the services it provides.

“It has been awhile since we did that, and it is probably time to do it again,” he said. “In those 11 years, a lot of faces have changed [in the industry] and it is time to remind people once again as to who we are and what we do.”

The Dispute Resolution Corp. is a private, non-profit organization of companies that trade or transport fresh produce in North America. It was established under Article 707 of the North American Free Trade Agreement with the support and endorsement of the Canadian, U.S. and Mexican governments. The DRC is dedicated to providing fair, efficient, affordable and enforceable dispute resolution services to its membership involved in international trades. In Canada, it also serves as the domestic dispute resolution agency of choice for most Canadian produce companies.

Mr. Webber said that DRC was formed initially to both handle dispute resolutions among the three countries and to establish a PACA Trust-like provision in Canada for both domestic and international shipments.

“We have conquered the dispute resolution piece of the puzzle, but we haven’t solved the financial security aspect,” said Mr. Webber. “Stephen [Whitney] has been working on that quite extensively, and I will now shift some of my attention to that area.”

Mr. Webber said that there appears to be an understanding within the government agencies of Canada to move forward on this idea.

To round out the leadership team, the DRC also announced the hiring of Luc Mougeot as vice president. He most recently served as senior advisor to the Canadian Destination Inspection Service and has served in various management capacities, including assignments in both the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and Agriculture & Agri-Food Canada Minister’s offices.

Mr. Webber said that with the addition of Mr. Mougeot, the roles of the senior management team will be redefined somewhat. Mr. Webber will relinquish some of his trading assistance work but said “that is my love and my passion. The other member of the team will step up and take more of that responsibility that will give me time to devote to other areas.”

But he said that the bilingual Mr. Mougeot will fill some of the duties of the outgoing CEO because of his unique skill set, which includes an extensive knowledge of how government works.

“Luc does not have experience in dispute resolution, but his contacts in government and his knowledge of people and policies will be a great benefit to us,” said Mr. Webber. “His complementary skill set will be an excellent addition to the team.”