Medical marijuana plants. ( file photo by Ricardo Veneza)

Changes at the top for Aphria

A local cannabis producer will have new people in charge.

Leamington-based Aphria announced early Friday morning that co-founders Vic Neufeld and Cole Cacciavillani will be stepping away from their roles. Neufeld had been serving as CEO. The announcement came via Aphria’s Twitter account and was first reported by The Globe and Mail. A transition phase to find a successor for the CEO role will begin immediately.

“Vic and Cole are consummate entrepreneurs,” said Aphria Chairman Irwin D. Simon in a news release. “Thanks to their vision, energy and passion, Aphria has become a global player in an industry that didn’t even exist five years ago.  On behalf of the entire Aphria team, I want to express my gratitude to both.  I look forward to working with them to further build Aphria’s leadership team and continue driving long-term value for our patients, customers and employees into the future.”

According to the release, both Neufeld and Cacciavillani expressed their desires to move away from the hectic day-to-day operations of the company.

“We continue to have the greatest pride in what Aphria has achieved, and its future has never looked brighter,” said Neufeld. “From continued technology advancements, to continued support of scientific developments, to amazing adult use brands, to globalization strategies, and most of all, the hundreds of dedicated passionate team members that have joined Aphria, we are well positioned to be a dominant player.”

“Vic and I have worked tirelessly for decades, building great businesses, but now in our sixties, it is time for both of us to step back from the demands of leading a world-class organization,” said Cacciavillani. “Endless meetings, travel, deadlines, talent search – the list of executive responsibilities will only continue to grow.”

The news of this change at the top comes several weeks after it was reported by Bloomberg Canada that Aphria is the target of a hostile takeover bid from Ohio-based Green Growth Brands, operated by the billionaire Schottenstein family of Columbus, Ohio. A investigation uncovered a previous arrangement that had Aphria supplying medical cannabis to a company operating under the banner Liberty Health Science.

Aphria has since stated that such a takeover would be bad for all involved, contending that the Green Growth offer is significantly discounted.

Despite the planned changes and the uncertainty surrounding the hostile takeover bid, the company also announced Friday a significant increase in net revenue. For the second-quarter of the 2019 fiscal year, net revenue is up 63 per cent.