When Good Leaders Lose Their Way

Mark Whitacre

With a Ph. D. in Nutritional Biochemistry from Cornell University in hand, Mark Whitacre worked for Fortune 500 companies Ralston Purina and Degussa (Evonik) before he was hired at Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) at age 32 as president of the BioProducts Division. He was the youngest Divisional President in the history of the company, and in just six years their fermentation complex became one of the largest in the world. He became a Corporate Vice President of ADM and was the leading candidate to become the next company president until poor judgment and high-level corruption brought his world crashing down.

Now Executive Director of t-factor of Coca Cola Consolidated, Inc., Whitacre is the guest speaker at a special Christian Business Men’s Connection (CBMC) Zoom event on Wednesday, June 17 from 12 – 1:30 p.m. where he will speak on “When Good Leaders Lose Their Way.” (Register at bit.ly/CBMCMark) Drawing from his unique history, Mark provides one-of-a-kind insight into corporate ethics, corporate greed and the warning signs of a flawed corporate leadership.

Losing the Way

Here how this rising executive became an FBI informant and wore a wire for three years as a whistleblower responsible for uncovering the ADM price-fixing scandal in the early 1990’s. His undercover work with the FBI was the inspiration for the major motion picture, “The Informant,” starring Matt Damon as Mark Whitacre. Originally given full immunity, Whitacre’s missteps still landed him in prison where he served an 8 ½ year sentence, but it was during that time that his life was transformed.

Looking back on the experience now, Whitacre said, “It’s amazing. Going to prison and getting turned into the FBI actually saved my family. I would have done everything I could to keep that job, but I didn’t have God – that was my god. I was obsessed with that position and that livelihood. I think I would have become the number two executive there, but I would have lost my family. In my case, the journey of incarceration actually saved my family.”

What is most remarkable is that his wife Ginger stood by his side when Whitacre worked undercover for the FBI and when he served time in federal prison. She even moved to each state where he was incarcerated and visited him every weekend.

leadWhitacre’s transformation began when he received a visit from two CBMC members who had heard about his case in the news. One of them was Chuck Colson, of Watergate and founder of Prison Fellowship, and the other was a CFO of a pharmaceuticals company. “Those are the two guys who discipled me, and what they used to introduced me to God was one of the CBMC tools called Operation Timothy.”

Whitacre will share his testimony in detail at the event including how he found the purpose of his life while in prison and changed from a selfish leader to a servant leader in the 22 years since.

Leading the Way

“My main message is that the purpose of our life is really evangelism and discipleship,” said Whitacre. This is something he practices regularly in his current role at t-factor of Coca Cola Consolidated. Born out of the desire that the leadership at Coca-Cola Consolidated had to share their approach to building a God-honoring, purpose-driven corporate culture, t-factor partners with other companies whose leaders have a similar objective. Collectively they’re developing a movement of companies with a mutual understanding and commitment to building God’s kingdom, by stewarding the resources He has entrusted to them.

“These are companies that are not part of Coca Cola, and we equip them to have faith-friendly environments. Our attorneys share how it’s legal to bring your whole self to work and have prayer groups, and we have a corporate chaplain in every one of our 102 plants,” said Whitacre. “As a matter of fact, our purpose statement is to honor God in all that we do.”

Prior to joining t-factor at Coca Cola Consolidated, Whitacre was most recently Chief Operating Officer (COO) of CBMC, an organization that has impacted his life greatly the past two decades. “I’d say CBMC really equipped me well for that,” said Whitacre. “CBMC equips business leaders of all levels – lower level, middle management and upper executives – to integrate their faith in their work. And I’d say t-factor is more the company owner or CEOs, a little higher level executives. Changing corporate culture starts at the top.”

Whitacre would know. His more than two decades of top management experience at Fortune 500 and international companies, as well as his experience with the ADM price-fixing scandal and the FBI, give him a unique, seasoned perspective on leadership in the corporate world. As Mr. Douglas Burris, Chief of U.S. Federal Probation in the Eastern District of Missouri has stated publicly, “The story about Mark Whitacre’s redemption and second chance is one of the most inspirational stories of our time.”


Register to hear Mark Whitacre live on Zoom, Wednesday, June 17 from 12 – 1:30 p.m. by visiting bit.ly/CBMCMark

Read last month’s article by Shelly Pond at: https://www.goodnewsfl.org/2020-graduates-demonstrate-resilience-and-optimism/


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