People to Watch: Ed Breen
CEO of DuPont
When Ed Breen was tapped to retake the chief executive seat at Delaware’s most well-known and symbolically important company, he assumed a challenge very different than when he left in 2019.
He was chosen to lead DuPont de Nemours Inc. in 2015 following the ugly public proxy war over the company between then-CEO Ellen Kullman and the activist investor Nelson Peltz. Over just four years, Breen oversaw the merger of Dupont with Dow, another huge chemical manufacturer, and the subsequent division into Dow, DuPont and Corteva.
He stepped down as the split was finalized, but Dupont struggled to find its way afterward. Just eight months later, Breen was back at the helm and is again overseeing the sale of some of Dupont’s varied parts.
Its Nutrition & Biosciences Division will merge with International Flavors & Fragrance (IFF) in a $26 billion deal set to close in the first quarter of 2021. Meanwhile, Breen told analysts in 2020 that he’s been fielding phone calls for nearly all of the company’s non-core portfolio. It sold off its equity interest in the Hemlock semiconductor joint venture for $725 million and its biomaterials business for $240 million last summer.
Breen will also have to manage a company that is still synonymous with Delaware, even if a far-diminished version from even just two decades ago. Before the turn of the century, DuPont employed more than 13,000 people in the First State, making it the largest employer here. Today it ranks 16th with about 3,500 employees.
As DuPont looks to shake off the dust off the past decade, can Breen bring back some of the shine to Delaware’s once prestigious brand?