Martin Richenhagen’s AGCO Grows Sponsorship from Europe to USA Championships

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Martin Richenhagen
Martin Richenhagen

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

Martin Richenhagen has steered the company he runs as one of the world’s largest manufacturer of agricultural equipment to become a powerhouse sponsor of horse sports in both Europe and the United States.

The U.S. Junior and Young Rider Championships is beng added to the lineup of events sponsored by the New York Stock Exchange-listed AGCO that already includes the German Olympic teams in dressage, jumping and eventing as well as events in other nations, inclduing the Netherlands.

As chairman, chief executive and president of AGCO, based in Atlanta but with plants around the globe, Martin was believed to be the only German heading up a Fortune 500 company–“was” because he became an American on Aug. 8, 2011 and holds dual citizenship.

With broad and deep learnng that gets him the label of a Renaissance Man, Martin has lived in the United States long enough that the 59-year-old executive admits he “feels very American,” though his two sons and a daughter “feel more American than I do.”

“I feel like an international citizen,” he said. He studied for degrees in theology, French literature and philosophy at the Sorbonne and the University of Bonn. He speaks several languages.

The International Equestrian Federation (FEI) 4* judge–time pressures allow him to judge at a limited schedule of shows each year, Dortmund, Hagen and Hamburg in Germany- still rides dressage and dabbles in breeding. He trained with his friend Klaus Balkenhol, the U.S. team coach from 2000 to 2008.

Although he toyed with the idea of becoming a professional dressage trainer in his home city of Cologne, he became a teacher and then launched his business career with a German steel group and was a senior executive at several international companies before taking charge at AGCO.

Martin is credited with rebuilding the business that lost both its CEO and sales chief in an air crash in 2002. The company has 20,000 employees in 20 countries manufacturing and selling AGCO products through five core brands–Challenger, Fendt, GSI, Massey Ferguson and Valtra.

Although his resumé says he splits his time beteen AGCO headquarters, his home and barn in the Atlanta suburbs and a home in Warendorf, near the German Equestrian Federation headquarters, in 2012 he spent just two days there.

Horses are his main passion and he loves to spend time around them.

AGCO’s Fendt brand sponsors to the tune of about €1 million (US$1.3 million) a year Germany’s high performance teams and another €500,000 (US650,000) at the World Equestrian Festival in Aachen, Germany’s and the world’s premier horse show. The Massey Ferguson division supports the KWPN stallion show in the Netherlands. And he has served as chef d’equipe of the German dressage team–which he was in 2008 when they came home with the gold medal.

Over the years, the firm has sponsored several shows and events in the the U.S. southeast, typically smaller shows by providing them with scoreboards that they normally could not afford, but not at American championships.

“I was judging in Lexington, Kentucky last year and people were talking about financial issues facing the event,” he said. “I thought maybe we can help.”

AGCO is now the title sponsor of the Junior and Young Rider national championships presented by Dutta Corp.

“Maybe,” he said, “it can evolve into something bigger in the future.”

The company likes to sponsor horse shows as it keeps the firm in touch with its customers.

And he does keep an eye out. For example, on the search for a new leader of the U.S. dressage team, he said:

“I think America needs a national coach, and a good one, someone who is not only able to help theoretically. I think the best solution was when my friend Klaus was in charge. It is much better to find a skilled traimer and they need to live in the country.”

But he can joke about his own talents as a rider on a gifted horse he bought last year.

“At the firat show, we won with 69 per cent,” he said. “The mare is very special and I was demonstrating to my wife how to ride the horse by doing some flying changes on the diagonal. I went straight and the horse went left…”