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Vic Neufeld will step down as chief executive officer of Aphria Inc., sources said, when the cannabis producer finds a substitute for it, the company is expected to announce on Friday.
Aphria, who has been struggling with business issues and low stock prices, is rumored to be starting a search for someone to replace Neufeld in his position since 2014. The company, one of Canada's largest marijuana producers, quarterly results on Friday.
The company, based in Leamington, Ontario, hopes to attract a prominent executive with global know-how to take over Neufeld – not necessarily someone from the marijuana sector, a source familiar with the situation said. The individual was given the anonymity of The Globe and Mail because the person was not authorized to speak publicly about the subject. The company has not yet set a date for Neufeld's departure, which will also step down as a member of Aphria's board of directors, sources said.
Aphria and Neufeld did not respond on Thursday to requests for comment.
The expected announcement of his departure comes weeks after Aphria was targeted by two short sellers in a report criticizing the company's nearly $ 300 million settlement to acquire marijuana assets in Colombia, Argentina and Jamaica. The report provided photographs and documents that suggested that the assets are not significant and worth a fraction of that.
Aphria contested the report, but created an independent committee of the council to investigate these allegations. Last month, Neufeld stepped down as president to clear the way for an independent director, Irwin Simon, in charge.
Aphria was also criticized earlier this year after The Globe reported that Neufeld, other directors and its chief financial officer personally owned undisclosed shares of Nuuvera Inc. when Aphria acquired the company for $ 425 million. Aphria said that such investments were immaterial and did not need to be disclosed by corporate law.
Mr. Neufeld helped grow Aphria for one of Canada's largest licensed cannabis producers; has a stock market capitalization of about $ 2 billion. Prior to joining Aphria, he was CEO of Jamieson Laboratories Ltd. for 21 years, where he led the vitamin company from $ 20 million in annual sales to $ 250 million. Prior to 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 responsible for Aphria's growing operations, will also leave the company, sources said. Aphria and Mr Cacciavillani did not respond on Thursday to requests for comments. Details
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