About a month ago, the news of the day was equivalent to an 8 plus earthquake on the seismic scale measuring the progress of the Cannabis Industry worldwide when Constellation Brands invested roughly $5 Billion ($4B USD), yes, with a capital B, Canadian to up its stake to 38% of Canopy Growth Corporation (NYSE: CGC), the Canadian-based marijuana producer/processor. Since that time and even before, Chairman and co-CEO Bruce Linton has been on a multi-year whirl-wind journey building the largest Cannabis company in the world as measured by a current market cap of over $11 billion based on the closing share price yesterday on a trailing 12 month revenue base of $77 Million CAD.
At least two US companies, have annual revenues that could be twice as high as CGC but neither company has the massive footprint that CGC has built through acquisition worldwide proving it with access to a consumer base that dwarfs any American company as well as the other top Canadian companies in the industry. Additionally, CGC is positioned to realize terrific growth in domestic revenues in October when Canada’s Adult-Use program kicks in.
After chasing Linton for the last 3 months to learn more about what makes the $10 billion dollar man and married father of two teenagers tick and how CGC plans on monetizing all of those potential cannabis consumers worldwide, CBE spoke with him last Friday and here is what we learned.
At a young age, Linton’s parents moved him and his brother (they are 2.5 years apart) to a rural setting in Ontario, about halfway between Toronto and Detroit. Linton said that cleaning pig pens kept them grounded and taught them the basics of hard work and commerce at an early age. They taught him the basics of fairness and sharing, something that he has carried with him in business from the day that he graduated from Carleton University in 1992. Linton told me a story about his memories of the community he grew up in and its lack of diversity that helps explain his philosophy. He told me about a Vietnamese boat-people family that moved to his town and how the community embraced them…it had a big impact on how he looks at life and business.
He espouses on this philosophy in his LinkedIn profile and throughout the interview.
“Hmmmm professional experience? Make things better that you care to advance. Sleep well every day because you play fairly. A great business is one that attracts great customers and employees. The world is easily traveled and a hugely rewarding place. Charity work gives energy back to you.
Goals: Continue to accelerate what I learn and what I accomplish.
Specialties: Opportunities self-declare on a constant basis. This is demand self-identification – I get demand self-identification via a global range of connections, discussions and the www and make a living by channeling this to our businesses.”
Prior to beginning Tweed Inc. in 2013, Linton traveled a lot as a young businessman and learned early on that one has to be ethical in business. He shared his strong belief in collaboration versus bullying to achieve objectives. In any situation he is constantly looking for a win-win outcomes. All of these lessons and beliefs fit well in an industry that he rightly says gets judged twice as hard as any other, probably in history.
After helping CrossKeys Systems go public in the mid 90’s, he Co-Founded and ran webHancer in the middle of the dotcom boom until selling it to Microsoft.
The webHancer experience played a key role in his entry in the Cannabis Industry 10 years later. When he decided to make the jump into the Canada’s new regulated medical marijuana industry in 2009 Linton wanted to select a memorable name and brand that people would never forget. He wishes he had named webHancer, webEnhancer since that was essentially what the product was intended to do, and this experience led to the name of Tweed in 2014. By combining weed with the T for Therapeutic, the name wouldn’t create confusion as to what they were providing, and it was memorable. I mentioned that, to an US citizen, Tweed reminded me of Boss Tweed, one of the dominating figures in NY politics in the mid 1800 early industrial revolution America.
With the Tweed moniker in hand, Bruce and his Tweed co-founder set out in 2009 to build the pre-eminent company in the nascent Canadian cannabis industry.
From the outset, Linton believed that Tweed (which evolved into CGC as it began acquiring additional businesses in 2015) and all Cannabis Industry companies would be under constant observation and he believed that they must use good corporate governance to track controlled and enforced products diligently. He set-out to create a disruptive medical company, based on chain of evidence science and solutions that achieved outcomes. And his vision was to scale production and extraction to create consistent, repeatable high quality product solutions and brands at a fair price that could be relied on by the end-user.
He also had the experience to execute his vision for a company that would have accountable, highly motivated leaders heading up the eventual subsidiary parts that make up the CGC that has set the cannabis world on its head, not only recently but again and again with first mover plays.
The original vision behind the CGC we read about today had a simple premise behind it…play by the rules but participate in their development and transparently educate the community about them. With the Conservative Party of Canada in charge at the outset of Canada’s Medical Marijuana program, Linton anticipated that they would regulate at a platform level. He anticipated that police would be confused so he planned on making law enforcement (LE) happy by starting a cannabis company that would help in the development of the new regulatory program. Linton and CGC participated and collaborated to form the new rules to fix the problem for LE.
He raised significant capital ($1.2 Billion) to create grow, extraction, science and health facilities and opened the doors to the curious and regulator community and embarked on a mission to create a dominant position in the industry that CGC has achieved by developing the capacity to deliver over 35% of the supply to the medical marijuana consumer base in Canada.
Linton also set his eyes to compete head-on with what he sees as his two biggest challengers, the illicit black market and public perception, not the other start-up companies in Canada and abroad.
To execute his vision Linton and his team searched far and wide to find the best and the brightest, collaborationists, not isolationists to execute his vision. He genuinely seeks nice, bright people who know how to communicate and set-out to build a culture of around a core team that shared his values, values that have successfully worked in past start-ups and ventures. He also believes that folks that have families, kids and mortgages over folks that have achieved financial security from past jobs, his experiences have led him to generally believe that they are less motivated. Linton is proud of the go for it attitude of what he describes as his humble team. And, as he told me in the interview, he wants self-governing individuals instead of having to rely on annual performance reviews to see if individuals are on track.
Linton also set out to make sure that they would all share in the rewards if they could pull off his vision, every employee has skin in the game, not just the higher-ups, to be rewarded for their efforts. Like all Canadian boys growing up, he wanted to build a team of A league players to drive a strong core culture working towards the same goals.
Additionally, Linton leads the charge highly cognizant of the brand CGC is building. I have observed him on two occasions now in the last six months at cannabis conferences speaking frankly and openly about what CGC is doing and sharing how they are doing it and then staying for hours to answer the questions of the packs of press that chase him down for his views, insights and even for selfies with the man who has built the Cannabis Industry’s first publicly traded company on a major US exchange. His down to earth style is not intimidating or arrogant, rather I have observed him treating the throngs with warmth, humor and openness. And underneath it all is a highly focused strategic thinker who has his pulse on CGC’s businesses and needs.
Amidst the chaos of a press scrum at a NY conference, I was impressed by how he listened to and gave clear directions to a head-hunter about how she could help CGC by telling her exactly the type of executive he was seeking to run a part of the company. I don’t know if she filled his order for a senior pharmaceutical executive who was ready to run his or her own show, but she certainly knew his parameters. What more can you ask for in a brief exchange. And by the way, he promised me an interview at that same show and here we are.
During our conversation, I was impressed by how forthcoming Linton was about his own personal experience with cannabis. When he was working planting trees in British Columbia as a young man, several of the workers would leave work and head to the Dope Dome before dinner. When he participated, he found that he didn’t enjoy the on & off ramp of the product they were consuming and would have preferred understanding that better, like, let’s say knowing how consuming two beers would make him feel and the duration of that effect. He is genuinely excited about the advent of adult-use cannabis on October 17 and the opportunity to legally buy and consume cannabis in his country for the first time.
In addition to his people selection approach, Linton has believed since day one that he had to raise dough to build out domestic capacity and to make strategic acquisitions around the world that would put CGC product in front of the consuming public. The early investment in growing and extraction capacity was due to early successful raises before Tweed became the first Canadian licensed producer under the new MMPR laws to go public in early 2014. It was part of his “keep raising and don’t look in the rearview mirror strategy” that has allowed CGC to expand its potential cannabis consumer growth from the 35 million Canadians to a footprint around the globe that easily exposes 10 times that number of consumers to CGC brands. With an already established footprint, established primarily through acquisition, CGC has multiple Canadian and European Union locations as well as a presence in Colombia, Chile, and Brazil in Latin America, Jamaican and Australian operations, an African subsidiary as well as over 30 subsidiary companies covering necessary disciplines like science, formulation, building, venture capital, etc.
As a supply chain operator Linton believes that CGC’s greatest challenge lies in continuing to deal with the naysayers and prohibitionists that have always exhibited a bias against science over the past 100 years. He believes that Pharma will be a player in the industry but will need the very IP and product that CGC and its peers have invested so heavily in developing and will present additional opportunities for all.
CGC will use its war chest to purchase advanced technologies and additional assets around the world to continue to drive access to more consumers because after all that is the ultimate game when it comes to driving revenues, the next big step in any cannabis company that wants to be left standing when the smoke clears down the road.
Linton has led CGC from the ground up with his unique style and experiences in management and company building. With a ton of money to continue expansion as well as a growing team of motivated employees, he sees challenges like acclimating acquired assets and employees to the CGC culture or increasing yields from his grow or extraction facilities or winning the war of the hearts and minds of the known or unknown regulatory bodies and changing public perception as opportunities.
After all is said and done, CGH is a publicly traded company and is measured by its ability to generate returns for investors. Linton and the team have built and positioned the company to achieve significant market share globally and, so far, they have made a lot of investors a ton of money investing in an industry that is still on the 30 or 40 yard line with more than half the field to march down before scoring. Not bad for a guy who began his business career cleaning pigsties and living by the “Golden Rules”. So far so good and CBE expects to continue to see more innovative firsts from CGC’s leader and his team of motivated professionals.
Cannabis Business Executive Company Background Information
Company Name: Canopy Growth Corp (formerly Tweed Marijuana Inc.)
Year Founded: 2014 (Tweed was founded officially in 2010
Ownership structure/operating entities: Public Company; CGC (NYSE)
Bruce Linton, Chairman & Co-Chief Executive Officer
Mark Zekulin, President & Co-Chief Executive Officer
Timothy Saunders, Chief Financial Officer & Executive Vice President
Dr. Mark A. Ware, Chief Medical Officer
Mr. Ru Wadasinghe, Chief Information Officer
Headquarters: Smiths Falls, Canada
Industry Segment/Category: Producer, Processor, Retailer
Current Markets Served: Australia, Brazil, Canada (12 production licences), Chile, Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Jamaica. Production operations in Colombia & through partnership in Spain.
Number of Locations: 19
Current Number of employees: 1,300
Market Strategy/Goals: To work hard every day to restructure the old prohibition driven rules to create an effective regulated marketplace that will reduce the black market worldwide.
2015 FY CAD Revenues: $1.9 M
2016 FY CAD Revenues: $12.7 M
2017 FY CAD Revenues: $39.9 M
2018 FY CAD Revenues: $77.95 M
Expansion Plans: Worldwide
Financing strategy: Equity issues and Debt
Rob Meagher, CBE’s Founder, President and Editor-in-Chief is a 30 year veteran of the media world. His career has spanned from stints representing the Washington Post, USA Weekend, Reader’s Digest, Financial World & Corporate Finance to the technology world where he worked at International Data Group and Ziff Davis where he was part of the launch team for The Web Magazine, Yahoo Internet Life, Smart Business and Expedia Travels before starting his own marketing and Publisher’s Representative Firm. He also ran all print and online media sales and marketing for the Society for Human Resource Management before partnering with Forbes and then Fortune to create Special Sections covering a variety of topics. Rob, who started CBE Press in 2014, can be contacted at [email protected]
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