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Home / Industry News / The cannabis industry continues to shell out big bucks for those at the top, including $14 million to this former Canadian PM

The cannabis industry continues to shell out big bucks for those at the top, including $14 million to this former Canadian PM

The cannabis industry continues to shell out big bucks for those at the top, including $14 million to this former Canadian PM

Canada, May 27, 2020 (The Growth OP)- Switching sides paid off for former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, who joined the board of directors of New-York based cannabis company Acreage Holdings in November of 2018.

In a report published by Toronto-based Bedford Consulting Group, Mulroney was deemed to be among the highest-paid directors of a cannabis company. His total compensation, including base salary, annual bonus, equity (share-based awards and options-based awards) and pension, was reported to be $13,913,873.

Mulroney, of course, served as Prime Minister from 1984 to 1993. During that time, his government introduced legislation that categorized cannabis at the same level as heroin. His tune changed, however, by the time legalization occurred in Canada.

In October of 2018, he told CBC News, “It takes a while for certain people and certain things to catch up with reality, and great social advances — as I’ve indicated — come in waves. And this is one of the waves that I think will have Canada showing the way for the rest of the world.” Mulroney continued his endorsement of legalization by saying, “The government’s position that was taken yesterday is the way to go.”

Biggest players in the cannabis industry

The data presented by the consulting firm was collected in October last year. It analyzed 96 cannabis companies listed publicly on the TSX, TSXV, CSE, NYSE, Nasdaq and ASX, including 449 board members and 437 executive officers.

Brendan Kennedy, CEO of Nanaimo, B.C.-based Tilray. Chad Hipolito/The Canadian Press

The top 10 executive officers in the cannabis sector and their total compensation is as follows:

  • Brendan Kennedy, president and CEO of Tilray Inc. ($31,817,459)
  • Robert Daino, COO of Acreage Holdings, Inc. ($19,531,750)
  • Kevin Murphy, CEO of Acreage Holdings, Inc. ($10,144,875)
  • Irwin D. Simon, Interim CEO and Chair of Aphria Inc. ($9,577,296)
  • Bruce Linton, former Co-CEO and Chair of Canopy Growth Corporation ($9,327,800)
  • Sebastien St-Louis, CEO of HEXO Corp. ($8,849,943)
  • Peter Aceto, former CEO of CannTrust Holdings Inc. ($8,251,626)*
  • Torsten Kuenzlen, former CEO of Sundial Growers Inc. ($7,987,203)
  • Mark Zekulin, former CEO of Canopy Growth Corporation ($5,958,440)
  • Justin Gover, CEO of GW Pharmaceuticals ($4,727,235)

*Note: Aceto was terminated from his position in July 2019. His option value went to zero.

“The information is collected via public disclosure docs. All the companies that we looked at were publicly traded organizations,” says Darren Raycroft, co-lead for cannabis and consumer process at Bedford Consulting Group.

Beyond compensation, the findings of the study also revealed a disparity when it comes to top positions held by women in the cannabis space. Only 38 per cent of cannabis companies had at least one female board member. A mere eight per cent of the 437 chief executive officers the consulting group looked at were female.

As per the report, 38 per cent of cannabis companies had at least one female board member. Only eight per cent of the 437 chief executive officers were female. Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press files

Raycroft explains that while the numbers, at first glance, appear staggering, they demand closer inspection. “The common theme that you hear when the cannabis compensation comes up is the big splashy numbers about Brendan Kennedy making over $31 million dollars, but 97 per cent of that is equity-based,” says Raycroft.

“If you looked at the 50th percentile, cannabis CEO total compensation was $1,712,759 for companies over $1 billion in market cap,” continues Raycroft. By comparison, CEOs at the same 50th percentile and market cap in the dietary supplements and food and beverage industry was $4,632,015.”

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