Buhler Industries has replaced one of its Russian directors who was seen as a potential target for sanctions over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The company, which makes Versatile tractors and Farm King equipment, says its board of directors has accepted the resignation of Konstantin Babkin, who has served on Buhler’s board since the Russia-based farm equipment manufacturer Rostselmash became Buhler’s majority owner in 2007.
“Mr. Babkin has been a vocal supporter of the actions taken by the Russian Federation. These views are in stark contrast to those of the North American executive team and do not reflect the position or values of Buhler Industries,” says a company statement, issued late March 2.
While Babkin has been dropped from Buhler’s board, he appears to still be one of the main owners of Rostselmash, along with Dmitry Udras and Yuri Ryazanov, who both remain on Buhler’s board after the shuffle on Wednesday. Rostselmash owns 96.7 per cent of the shares in Buhler, which are listed on the TSX.
In addition to his executive role with the Russian farm equipment company, Babkin is the leader and co-founder of the Action Party (sometimes translated as Party of Business) in Russia, which is known to be supportive of Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin. Babkin advocated for Russia’s takeover of Crimea in 2014, and posted a party statement on his social media accounts last week expressing support for the Russian government’s recognition of the independence of two regions of eastern Ukraine.
According to the Action Party’s Russian website, Babkin, Udras, and Ryazanov are all members of the party’s 7-person “federal council.”
Following his resignation on Wednesday, Babkin has been replaced on Buhler’s board by Adam Reid, the company’s vice president of sales and marketing. Reid hails from Manitoba and has over 15 years experience working for Buhler and its Versatile tractor business.
In addition to Babkin’s resignation, Grant Adolph has replaced Udras as chair of Buhler’s board of directors. Adolph was already on the board and is also the company’s chief operating officer.
Ossama AbouZeid, who previously served as Buhler’s president and chief financial officer, has also been appointed to the board, replacing former owner and company namesake John Buhler, who has decided to retire after selling the remainder of his shares to Rostselmash in December 2021.
“We thank Mr. Buhler, who has served on the board since the formation of Buhler Industries, a company that he started, for his years of dedicated service,” the company says.
As of March 2, none of the individuals associated with Buhler were on the Canadian government’s sanction list. Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly has said further sanctions are still to be announced.
Buhler has approximately 700 employees in Canada, mainly in Winnipeg and Morden, Man., along with 50 staff in the U.S.