Licensed producer Aphria Inc. announced Tuesday the resignation of its president Jakob Ripshtein effective June 7, but did not specify what led to Ripshtein’s resignation or who would replace him.
“On behalf of the Board of Directors and Aphria team, we thank Jakob for his contributions to the company over the past year and wish him well in his future endeavours. He has been instrumental in assembling the incredible team we are fortunate to have today that will carry his responsibilities forward,” said Irwin Simon, the company’s interim chief executive officer.
Ripshtein — the former chief financial officer of alcohol giant Diageo — has worked at the Leamington-based company for just over a year, serving first as its chief commercial officer, before transitioning into the role of president in November 2018.
Just weeks later, a short-seller report questioning the company’s Latin American acquisitions sent the company’s stock diving and led to appointment of a special committee to assess the validity of the short-seller claims.
Simon was brought into the company at the end of December in the role of independent chair to the board of directors while the special committee investigation was ongoing.
Since then, Aphria has seen a slew of executive-level departures, including former CEO Vic Neufeld and co-founders Cole Cacciavillani and John Cervini.
Ripshtein’s impending resignation comes just four months after the company announced it would hand over management reins to both Simon and Ripshtein, as a result of Cacciavillani and Neufeld leaving the company.
“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,” a January 11 press release read.
But even before he was appointed interim CEO in February, it was Simon who assumed a front-facing role, dealing with the media and investors as Aphria battled to regain its credibility amidst the short seller allegations and a subsequent hostile bid from American cannabis retailer Green Growth Brands.
Repeated requests to interview Riphstein over the past few months were declined.
Ripshtein and Aphria’s Chief Financial Officer Carl Merton are some of the only remaining senior executives in the company who served both before and after the short seller report came out in December 2018 and sparked turbulence for the Ontario licensed producer.
Short sellers Hindenburg Research and Quintessential Capital Management had alleged that Neufeld, along with other Aphria insiders participated in a scheme to benefit themselves through the purchase of a number of Aphria’s Latin American assets that were allegedly over-inflated in value.
The special committee appointed by Aphria later found that although Aphria’s Latin American acquisitions were “near the top of the range” in the price paid to acquire them, they were still within an “acceptable range” compared to similar acquisitions by competitors.
In mid-April, however, Aphria reported a one-time non-cash impairment charge of $50 million in relation to the controversial Latin American assets — the write-down was a result of a reassessment by its special committee on the request of the Ontario Securities Commission.
Aphria’s latest management shuffle also saw the appointment of James Meiers — who worked alongside Simon at Hain Celestial — as chief operating officer and Tim Purdie as chief information officer. Maureen Berry was named vice-president, corporate human resources.
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