A pioneer of the legal-cannabis industry and former leader of one of its most prominent companies has joined the top ranks of Minneapolis-based Vireo Health.
Bruce Linton has been named executive chairman of the multistate cannabis concern, which operates locally as Minnesota Medical Solutions.
“Beyond the attractive collection of strategic assets and intellectual property … I have taken this role because I share the company’s ambitious vision for the future,” Linton said in a prepared statement. “We are confident Vireo can become a top U.S. producer and distributor of high-margin, proprietary products within the next several years and create unprecedented long-term shareholder value.”
Linton, 53, a former Canadian technology entrepreneur, started researching the emerging cannabis market for medicinal purposes as well as recreational and founded Canopy Growth in 2012. Linton was forced out of Canopy by alcoholic-beverage maker Constellation Brands, after it invested $4 billion for about 37% of the company earlier this year.
In addition to Vireo, Linton has joined Michigan-based Gage Cannabis as executive chairman. “Bruce’s extraordinary track record in the cannabis industry speaks for itself and I am incredibly excited about the opportunity to work closely with this industry trailblazer,” said CEO Kyle Kingsley, 42, the medical doctor who is founder of Vireo.
Vireo lost $1.9 million on revenue of $7.2 million in the second quarter. The company obtained a listing on a Canadian stock exchange in March. It has slid from about $4.75 to $1.55 per share. But trading is volatile in the legal-cannabis industry. On Thursday, it rose 15%.
In a telephone interview, Linton said he’s motivated to help Vireo achieve success for patients and shareholders.
“Vireo is based in science and it has hundreds of licenses,” Linton said. “They will see strategic advantage. I’m a huge fan of dumping money in things backed by science. And creating value. We want to put the ingredients together, validate and help people.
“And Kyle has integrity, intellect and energy. I like working. It’s not just about money.”
Linton will receive incentive-based compensation in the form of warrants to acquire up to 15 million subordinate voting shares.
In short, the warrants are priced so that Linton only makes money if the price goes up and he will only realize maximum value over time if the price reaches $5.86 per share and the value of the company hits $500 million.
“I don’t get anything of what they had,” Linton said. “If I don’t create more value, I see no compensation from the warrants. That creates 100% alignment in how we make this company bigger and better.”
Kingsley was an emergency-room physician in Shakopee nearly a decade ago when he first considered that “medical marijuana” might help patients more than the profligate alcohol and opioid use he witnessed every night.
Kingsley, who grew up in Harmony in southeastern Minnesota, served 10 years in the Minnesota National Guard as a combat medic to help pay for his medical education.
Neal St. Anthony • 612-673-7144