Ottawa

Bruce Linton out as co-CEO of Canopy Growth

Canopy Growth, a Smiths Falls, Ont.-based cannabis company, is looking for a new leader.

Co-founder of eastern Ontario cannabis company says 2018 deal a major reason why

Bruce Linton, former co-CEO of Canopy Growth, based in Smiths Falls, Ont., and now one of the country's biggest cannabis companies, told CBC on Wednesday that the company's board is looking for a new leadership style. (Julie Ireton/CBC)

The co-founder and co-CEO of Canopy Growth, a Smiths Falls, Ont.-based cannabis company, says he has been pushed out.

The company issued a news release Wednesday morning saying its board had decided that Bruce Linton would step down as co-CEO and from its board, and that Linton had agreed.

Linton had a different perspective when he spoke to CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning.

"Let's be clear. A lot of people like to paint a picture that's different, but this is a termination," said Linton.

The founder and co-CEO of Canopy Growth, a Smiths Falls, Ont.-based cannabis company, has stepped down. 8:23

The company said in the release that Mark Zekulin has moved from co-CEO to CEO as the board looks for a new leader.

"While Canopy will never be the same without Bruce, the team and I look forward to continuing to do what we have done for the past six years: investing in world class people, infrastructure and brands, and always seeking to lead through credibility and vision," said Zekulin in the release.

The changes are effective immediately.

$5B investment last year

The company has become one of the country's biggest cannabis players. It was co-founded in 2013 by Linton and Chuck Rifici, who left in 2014, in a former chocolate factory in the eastern Ontario town.

Canopy Growth got a $5-billion investment in August 2018 from the parent company of Corona beer and Kim Crawford wines.

Linton told CBC he believes the large investment likely led to his departure, as the company's new board decided it needed a different style of leadership.

"Probably the reason a person is an active entrepreneur is that they have specific things they want to try and do their way," he said.

"At a certain point in time, sometimes that results in people wanting to have less [of an] entrepreneur and maybe more management and less leadership, and so it's time for a change in their mind." 

Linton is shown at a Tweed retail store in St John's last October after Canada legalized recreational cannabis. The then co-CEO of Canopy Growth flew to Newfoundland and Labrador to personally handle the first legal sales. (Chris Wattie/Reuters)

The company reported an uptick in fourth-quarter net revenues, but a wider-than-expected fourth-quarter loss in its most recent quarterly report, on June 21.

"Lack of profitability should be no surprise given recent company commentary on investment commitments," said Jefferies analyst Ryan Tomkins in a note to clients that day.

"But, given the degree of the losses and the fact that profitability is becoming more of an investor focus, it is likely to cause concern."

No plans to retire

Linton said his entrepreneurial drive means people shouldn't be surprised if they hear from him in the near future.

"I like a few things," said Linton. "I like having business cards, I like having meetings and I like having a microphone. There are none of those in a hammock."

Bruce Linton, former co-CEO of Canopy Growth, says he was pushed out of the company he co-founded. 0:42

As for the future of Canopy Growth, Linton said he has no doubt the company will continue to expand and remain one of the world's biggest cannabis sellers.

"This is a bump in the road. If this thing depended on Bruce, we have a major problem."

Canopy Growth's stock price on the Toronto Stock Exchange was at $52.49 a share at the end of the day Tuesday, up from $39.28 a share at the beginning of 2019, but down from its 2019 peak of $69.90 April 29.

With files from CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning

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