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Vic Neufeld will step down as chief executive officer of Aphria Inc., sources say, when the cannabis grower finds a replacement for him, the company is expected to announce on Friday.
Aphria, which has been facing questions about its deal-making and a slumping stock price, is expected to say that it is beginning a search for someone to replace Mr. Neufeld in the top job, which he has held since 2014. The company, one of the largest Canadian marijuana producers, is also set to release its quarterly results on Friday.
The company, based in Leamington, Ont., is hoping to attract a prominent executive with global know-how to step into Mr. Neufeld’s job – and not necessarily someone from the cannabis sector, said a source familiar with the situation. The individual was granted anonymity by The Globe and Mail because the person was not authorized to speak publicly about the matter. The company has not set a date for the departure of Mr. Neufeld, who will also step down as a member of Aphria’s board of directors, sources said.
Aphria and Mr. Neufeld didn't respond Thursday night to requests for comment.
The expected announcement of his departure comes weeks after Aphria was targeted by two short-sellers in a report that criticized the company’s nearly $300-million stock deal to acquire marijuana assets in Colombia, Argentina and Jamaica. The report provided photographs and documents that suggested the assets are not significant and are worth a fraction of that amount.
Aphria has disputed the report but created an independent committee of the board to look into those allegations. Last month, Mr. Neufeld stepped aside as chair to make way for an independent director, Irwin Simon, in the post.
Aphria also came under fire early last year after The Globe reported that Mr. Neufeld, other directors and its chief financial officer personally owned undisclosed shares in Nuuvera Inc. when Aphria acquired the company for $425-million. Aphria said these investments were immaterial and not required to be disclosed by corporate law.
Mr. Neufeld helped grow Aphria to one of Canada’s largest licensed producers of cannabis; it has a stock-market capitalization of about $2-billion. Before joining Aphria, he was CEO at Jamieson Laboratories Ltd. for 21 years, where he led the vitamin company from $20-million in annual sales to $250-million. Before that, he spent 15 years as a partner at Ernst & Young.
Aphria is also expected to announce on Friday that co-founder Cole Cacciavillani, an industrial engineer and greenhouse operator in charge of Aphria’s growing operations, will also be leaving the company, sources said. Aphria and Mr. Cacciavillani didn’t respond Thursday night to requests for comment.
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