Organigram's new female CEO has ties to Canopy Growth and Tilray

·3 min read
Organigram's announced on Tuesday that Beena Goldenberg would assume the top job effective Sept. 9.. (PROVIDED)
Organigram's announced on Tuesday that Beena Goldenberg would assume the top job effective Sept. 9.. (PROVIDED)

Organigram (OGI.TO) (OGI) has named a new chief executive officer.

Beena Goldenberg brings years of experience spanning cannabis and packaged food brands to the role, as well as a speck of gender balance to the overwhelmingly male crop of CEOs leading major Canadian pot companies.

The Moncton, N.B.-based cannabis producer announced on Tuesday that Goldenberg would assume the top job effective Sept. 9. Organigram is set to become the only major publicly-traded Canadian cannabis firm currently with a female CEO. Goldenberg replaces Greg Engel who stepped down in May. Organigram did not give a reason for Engel's departure.

Goldenberg was previously CEO of The Supreme Cannabis Company, a Toronto-based licensed producer acquired by Canopy Growth in a $435 million cash-and-stock deal that closed in June. Prior to that, she served as CEO of Hain-Celestial Canada, a division of the health foods giant founded by Tilray's current CEO in 1993. Irwin Simon often touts his decades of experience building Hain into a multi-billion dollar company as laying the groundwork for his success in the cannabis industry.

According to Organigram's news release, Goldenberg led Supreme and Hain-Celestial Canada through periods of significant growth, and has "demonstrated success in post-transaction integration."

Organigram is not known for engaging in aggressive M&A deals, like some of its pot-producing peers. However, in March, the company announced a $221-million investment from British American Tobacco PLC (BAT) in exchange for a 19.9 per cent stake in the company. As part of the deal, BAT was granted two seats on Organigram's board and representation on its investment committee. Organigram and BAT are partnering on a joint venture to develop cannabinoid products for the domestic and international markets.

"Beena [Goldenberg] has an impressive track record of building exceptional consumer businesses," Organigram executive chair Peter Amirault said in the release. "Beena . . . has the deep experience in consumer-facing industries now required to succeed in the rapidly evolving cannabis industry."

Goldenberg joins Organigram at a time when the company is looking to add more premium, higher-margin products to its portfolio. Her previous employer Supreme was known for these types of cannabis offerings.

In April, Craig Wiggins, managing director of the industry research team TheCannalysts, mused on Twitter that Goldenberg would be an asset to Organigram after the company reported disappointing second-quarter financial results. In May, Wiggins suggested Goldenberg as a successor to Engel on TheCannalysts "Inside the Ropes" podcast, shortly after Engel's departure was announced.

"Her main task will be to get their brands to generate consistent and growing sales, and reverse the trend of negative gross margins that has plagued the company for the past five quarters," Wiggins told Yahoo Finance Canada.

Despite the revolving door of senior executives since Canada legalized cannabis in 2018, few women have occupied chief executive roles at the country's top licensed producers. A HuffPost analysis of the sector conducted in 2019 found women represented 121, or 21 per cent, of 573 cannabis executives including officers and (depending on the company's management structure) directors and vice-presidents. That ratio narrowed significantly in the boardrooms of Canada's largest pot firms.

Jeff Lagerquist is a senior reporter at Yahoo Finance Canada. Follow him on Twitter @jefflagerquist.

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