Nelson Peltz joins Aurora Cannabis as strategic advisor

nelsonpeltz
Nelson Peltz Photographer: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg

Billionaire investor Nelson Peltz is joining Aurora Cannabis Inc. as a strategic adviser and is receiving stock options that could make him the pot firm’s second-largest shareholder.

Peltz, whose New York-based Trian Fund Management LP has more than $10 billion under management, will advise Aurora on “potential partnerships with leading corporations,” the company said in a statement Wednesday. Aurora’s shares jumped more than 7 percent in early trading in New York, reaching as high as $8.60 each.

“Nelson is a globally recognized business visionary with a strong track record of constructive engagement to generate accelerated, profitable growth and shareholder value across many verticals of great interest to us,” Aurora Chief Executive Officer Terry Booth said in the statement.

Peltz, 76, has been granted 20 million options to purchase Aurora shares at C$10.34 each, slightly below Tuesday’s closing price of $10.64 in Toronto. They will vest on a quarterly basis over four years, or faster if certain conditions are met. If exercised in full, that would make Peltz Aurora’s second-largest shareholder after ETF provider Vanguard Group Inc., according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

“I believe Aurora has a solid execution track record, is strongly differentiated from its peers, has achieved integration throughout the value chain and is poised to go to the next level,” Peltz said in the statement. “I look forward to helping Terry and the extended Aurora team evaluate its many operational and strategic opportunities, including potential engagement with mature players in consumer and other market segments.”

Aurora, based in Edmonton, Alberta, hasn’t yet secured a major strategic partner along the lines of Constellation Brands Inc.’s investment in Canopy Growth Corp. or Altria Group Inc.’s deal with Cronos Group Inc. Constellation and Altria both have the option of taking majority control of the Canadian cannabis companies in the future.

While the cannabis industry has attracted plenty of high-profile names -- including Martha Stewart, who recently took an advisory role at Canopy, and Kiss singer Gene Simmons, who’s chief evangelist officer at Invictus MD Strategies Corp. -- Peltz is arguably the highest-profile investor to take a job at a pot firm.

Peltz has a long history of agitating for changes in the consumer space, including at Wendy’s Co., where he is chairman. Trian has also pushed for changes at major U.S. corporations, including Procter & Gamble Co., where he sits on the board; PepsiCo Inc.; Mondelez International Inc., and Family Dollar Stores Inc.

Trian, which Peltz co-founded in 2005, shuns the term activist investor, preferring to be known as a “highly engaged share owner.”

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