Aphria CEO Vic Neufield exits role as search begins for replacement

Aphria CEO Vic Neufield exits role as search begins for replacement

Aphria CEO Vic Neufield exits role as search begins for replacement

One of the largest cannabis companies in Canada, Aphria's stock was hammered a few months ago by allegations from short sellers that the company bought numerous assets in the Caribbean and Latin America at grossly inflated prices, created to enrich insiders.

Vic Neufeld, along with co-founder Cole Cacciavillan, will "transition out of their executive roles over the coming months", Leamington, Ont. -based Aphria Inc. said in a press release Friday. "But to be brutally honest the journey has also taken a toll on health, family and personal priorities", Neufeld said.

Aphria CEO Vic Neufeld.

The leadership transition comes after short sellers Hindenburg Research and Quintessential Capital Management sparked a plunge in Aphria's shares after alleging the company sold assets at inflated prices to insiders.

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On December 3, Quintessential described Aphria as a "shell game with a cannabis business on the side" and said the stock was worth zero. The company has also posted its first quarterly financial results since making its debut the New York Stock Exchange. "With a new management team the company has a chance to a brighter future and we are accordingly moving on to new projects".

In a note to media, Aphria said that "working closely with Irwin D. Simon, Aphria's recently appointed independent Chair, and President Jakob Ripshtein, Mr. Neufeld and Mr. Cacciavillani intend to complete a smooth and responsible transition to a globally-minded executive leadership team for the long-term benefit of the company's patients, shareholders, customers, and employees". However, QCM didn't respond to BNN Bloomberg's inquiries to verify if the hedge fund had fully withdrawn its short position on the company.

The company's story was further complicated in late December with a hostile takeover bid by an Ohio-based marijuana company, Green Growth Brands.

Simon, Aphria's newly appointed chairman reiterated that and called Neufeld and Cacciavillani "consummate entrepreneurs".

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"There is no active offer for the company and the proposal presented was determined to significantly undervalue the company", Neufeld said during the call.

"I spent the last two days in Leamington at Aphria". Net revenue came to $21.7 million, up 63% from $13.3 million in the prior quarter and 155% from $8.5 million in the same three months previous year.

The change in Aphria's executive suite came as Aphria reported revenue totalled $21.7 million in what was its second quarter in the midst of recreational cannabis becoming legal in Canada, up from $8.5 million a year ago.

The company's gross margin decline to 47 per cent of net revenue from 64 per cent was attributed to lower selling prices in the Canadian recreational cannabis market, lower grow yields and higher production costs.

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Cannabis sales rose 92 percent to 3,409 kilogram equivalents, with more than 1,900 kilograms of that sold to the Canadian recreational market after pot was legalized on October 17. The average selling price fell to $6.54 per gram, from $7.12 per gram in the prior quarter.

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