Aphria confirms CEO, co-founder to exit embattled cannabis producer

Neufeld is seen at Aphria's greenhouse in Leamington Ont. in 2014. GEOFF ROBINS

The CEO of a Canadian cannabis producer recently targeted by short sellers will step down from an executive role at the company he helped found, but stay on the board.

The company said it closed the acquisition of "key operations and licenses" in Latin America and the Caribbean region.

Neufeld says he and Cacciavillani will begin the transition process immediately, and at the appropriate time, they will both step down from executive positions at Aphria.

"The last five years, going from an idea in some greenhouses in Leamington, Ont.to a global player in a major new industry have been an incredible journey for entrepreneurs like myself and Cole".

Both Neufeld and company co-founder Cole Cacciavillani are exiting their executive roles with Aphria after some eyebrow-raising allegations about the company recently emerged in the business press.

"Now with legalization and globalization, including a huge market opportunity with positive developments in the U.S., Aphria's next generation of leadership may take the reins", Neufeld said in a release. Aphria's stock tumbled more than 50 percent on the December 3 report was made public, but it has since rebounded, recouping much of that, including a 6.2 percent gain to C$9.25 at 11:15 a.m.in Toronto, reports Bloomberg on Friday.

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In early December, Aphria shares plummeted after its business was attacked by a short-seller, and a company backed by a billionaire OH family launched a hostile takeover bid in late December, though that effort has a number of red flags. In a tweet on Friday, Quintessential said it felt it had been vindicated, and "with a new management team the company has a chance to a brighter future and we are accordingly moving on to new projects". The company reported that medical cannabis sales declined marginally from 1,466.2 kilogram equivalents sold in the first fiscal quarter to 1,443.6 kilogram equivalents sold in the second quarter.

Takeover offer being examined On December 28, Ohio-based Xanthic Biopharma Inc.

"Part IV and V expansions of Aphria One awaiting Health Canada approval; application for cultivation licence at Aphria Diamond submitted and also awaiting Health Canada pre-cultivation inspection", said the company.

Aphria's independent chairman Irwin Simon and president Jakob Ripshstein will manage the transition. After the transition, Mr. Neufeld and Mr. Cacciavillani will serve as special advisers to the chair and president until a new CEO is appointed. I was blown away by the facilities, what has been built there - and I have traveled all around the world, have seen a lot of operations into personal care and other businesses.

Aphria reported $21.7 million in revenue in its fiscal second quarter that ended November 30, up 63 per cent from the same period a year ago, but short of the $28.8 million that analysts had expected. Quintessential accused Aphria of announcing acquisitions in July that it called "largely worthless" and said were used to divert as much as $700 million, or almost half of its total net assets.

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