It’s been a banner year for Kevin Murphy, the subject of mg Magazine‘s October cover story, “Changing the Game: Acreage CEO Kevin Murphy’s Play for the Future.”
Murphy recently sat down with The Green Rush Podcast, hosted by Lewis Goldberg and Anne Donohoe of KCSA Strategic Communications, to talk more about his roots in the sector (eight years ago he used his own money to launch his first cannabis business) and how he’s built the powerhouse that is Acreage Holdings.
In this special episode, Murphy chats with Goldberg about all things Acreage including the acquisition arrangement with Canopy and where that deal stands today, how Acreage is using its political might to drive reform to cannabis banking regulations, the company’s “house of brands” strategy, and how the SAFE Banking Act could transform the industry.
And despite his failed attempt to buy the first cannabis Super Bowl TV ad earlier this year, Murphy is has “never been more optimistic” about where the cannabis industry is headed.
Lewis Goldberg: Arguably the biggest of news in the cannabis industry in 2019 was the relationship that was developed between you and Canopy. And we don’t need to go through the whole story about what happened in Davos and drinking coffee in your skivvies with Bruce Linton, but the entire industry stock has been under pressure, right? You’re looking at between 20 and 40% declines on average for almost every single public cannabis company. Your stock too is not doing as you would want it to be doing. Do you see any causal relationship or what is the relationship between the deal with Canopy and what’s been going on with your stock?
Kevin Murphy: Well, it’s a pretty complex question and I’ll try to answer as best as I can.
LG: Well, I’m a complex guy.
KM: You are. I think the short answer is our stock has never been under more pressure and I personally have never been more optimistic about where we are today, not only from a company standpoint, but from an industry standpoint relating to cannabis. And we’ve just had overwhelming support in the House for Safe Banking, which I think signals to the Senate that they need to pass this bill, step one. Two, we feel that with our relationship with Canopy and with a lot of these stocks off, as you say 20 and 40%, our view is with the relationship in Canopy and further Constellation, we had always believed that this would help us secure our place in history looking out three to five years. The deal was not contemplated for what are we getting today, but it’s really about what we’re going to own and what we’re going to create five years from now.
And a lot of the cannabis players that exist today, don’t need to exist in five years. You’re going to see a lot of aggregation and you’re going to see a lot of folks unfortunately go by the wayside. And now that the stock market is off pretty dramatically, a lot of people have been shut out of the capital markets.
LG: The biggest news in 2019 was your deal with Canopy Growth and it blew everybody’s mind. Totally blew everybody’s mind mine included. And like Canopy and like everybody in the industry, one, I don’t think everybody clearly understands how the deal works and you’ve talked a lot about it. And two, they don’t understand, ultimately, the value especially with your stock under such pressure. So take a moment, talk to us about what are the real triggers on what happens with the deal, and then ultimately, you may need to raise capital at some time, so with your stock so low, what does the Canopy deal mean to you around that?
KM: Well, when the Canopy deal took place earlier this year, we could not have been more excited. We remain thrilled to have done the deal with Canopy. And for us the story has changed. We are one of the dominant players in the United States. We’ve coupled our efforts with a global dominant player in cannabis with a tremendous partner in Constellation. It’s the combination of efforts that remains the same today. So, the stock may go up, the stock may go down, but we have to continue and we are continuing with building our business. Not necessarily having to grab a headline here, a headline there, but everyday executing with the capital that we’ve been given through the capital markets, and our goal and our future remains the same. We’re in 20 states, we’re going to go deeper and broader in those states, we’re going to increase that size, and three to five years from now capitalizing on what we’ve received today from Canopy. They’ve spent hundreds of millions of dollars on IP, cannabis know-how, clinical work that we don’t have to pay for, we get it for free, the licensing agreement that we don’t pay for. And so, it’s leveraging off of all of that plus, yes, the stock market’s down and people have to access capital. Selling stock at this level is not the best way to access capital.
LG: Just ask a bunch of people who’ve had to do it recently.
KM: Unfortunately, yes and they’re borrowing it Visa plus ten. And I’ve got a better shot at getting better returns or cheaper capital with my credit cards but the view from our vantage point is, and we’ve always messaged it and we’ll continue to prove the fact that we will have the cheapest capital in the business because of our affiliation with Canopy and Constellation and that will be an enormous advantage now that things are frankly so soft. And so, our goal and our plan has not changed, and are as thrilled today about the transaction as we ever have.
LG: So, there’s an apocryphal story about how the deal kind of got struck in Davos last year with you and Bruce at the cannabis house. I have to ask, is he a tighty whitey or a boxer brief guy?
KM: That’s a very uncomfortable question.
LG: You don’t have to…
KM: Let’s not get into his…he’s an attractive man for sure, but I think that Bruce and I have developed a tremendous friendship. I have great respect for what he has done historically to create Canopy as it is today. I also know that Canopy and Constellation will find an extraordinary leader going forward. They have a terrific CEO today in Mark Zekulin, but Mark has stated that he would like to move on and do other things and I also know that both Canopy and Constellation are working on new leadership, and I am certain that they are going to find someone to take this to the next level.
KM: And it probably won’t be me. I’ve got enough to do here at Acreage and certainly thrilled with my job.