Aurora Cannabis CEO Terry Booth to step down, 500 staff face layoffs

Aurora Cannabis Inc. announced a dramatic restructuring of the marijuana producer that involves nearly $800 million in goodwill writedowns and the departure of hundreds of staff including its chief executive officer.

The Edmonton-based company revealed on Thursday — after markets closed and a few hours after trading of its stock was halted — that Terry Booth will immediately retire and it will eliminate the positions of about 500 staff, 25 per cent of which are corporate positions.

Aurora’s website boasts of 3,400 employees, which could mean the staff reductions may ensnare about 15 per cent of its workforce.

Aurora said executive chairman Michael Singer has been appointed interim CEO and a search for a permanent successor is underway. Booth will remain a director and become a senior strategic adviser to the board. Lance Friedmann and Michael Detlefsen will be added to the board.

“We believe our succession plan, expansion of the board and the rationalization of our business will make Aurora much stronger and more focused than ever before,” said Singer on a call with analysts, just after the announcement.

“We believe these are the right moves at the right time, and put our shareholders in the best position for value creation.”

The moves are the product of a detailed evaluation of all capital projects underway that will see a restructuring of spending plans related to technology, sales and marketing, travel and entertainment, professional services and non-revenue generating third-party costs.

The company previously decided to reduce its capital expenditures to below $100 million for the second half of fiscal 2020, but Thursday’s announcement also revealed that Aurora expects to report asset impairment charges on certain intangible and property, plant and equipment in the range of $190 million to $225 million and goodwill writedowns between $740 million and $775 million.

“These changes represent the start of a fundamental change in focus for Aurora as we look to generate sustainable, profitable growth, which is even more important in the context of our business rationalization,” said Singer. “We remain firmly of the opinion that a tremendous global opportunity still exists, but Aurora needs to rationalize the business today and drive as quickly as we can to generate positive cash flow.”

His remarks were echoed by Booth.

“These changes, along with the financial transformation which we are undertaking, should clearly demonstrate to investors that Aurora has the continuity, strategic direction and leadership it needs to transition from its entrepreneurial roots to an established organization well positioned to capitalize on a global growth opportunity,” he said in a statement.

He noted that he is both “proud” and “humbled” to have led the company, but feels “the timing is right” for him to step away.

“He recognizes that the next leg of our journey will be best led by a CEO with a different skillset,” said Singer. “Terry deserves an immense amount of credit as an icon and visionary in the cannabis industry.”

Aurora is one of the world’s largest cannabis companies with operations in 25 countries and 17 subsidiaries, including MedReleaf, CanvasRX and CanniMed Therapeutics. It has invested in and formed strategic partnerships with brands including Choom Holdings Inc. and High Tide Inc.

Aurora has faced rocky times in recent months. Its chief corporate officer Cam Battley, often the public face of the company who was credited for much of its early success, abruptly stepped down in December.

It said in November that it would immediately cease construction of its Aurora Nordic 2 facility in Denmark to save about $80 million, plus indefinitely defer completion of construction and commissioning at its Aurora Sun facility in Alberta to conserve $110 million. That news came as Aurora shares sank to a two-year low.

Its stock has plummeted in value in recent months and often hovers between $2 and $4. The shares lost 14.4 cents or 5.2 per cent to close at $2.66 on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

The company’s announcement comes just after Tilray Inc. announced on Tuesday the layoff of 10 per cent of its workforce in an effort to cut costs. The company — with a total head count of about 1,443 — said the move would help it better meet the needs of the industry and foster growth in 2020 and beyond.

Aurora is far from the first North American cannabis company to be hit with executive departures this year. TerrAscend Corp., Sundial Growers Inc., Supreme Cannabis Co, MedMen Enterprises Inc. and Flowr Corp. have all seen leadership exits in the last month.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta has 3,651 active cases of COVID-19. (File photo)
432 new COVID cases sets another record Friday

Central zone holds steady at 126 active cases

A Red Deer County man was arrested for drug possession by Innisfail RCMP on April 19. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Property crime and drugs top Red Deer RCMP priorities in new plan

2020-2022 Policing Priorities Plan going to city council on Monday

RCMP estimate about 500 people gathered on the weekend near Garrington Bridge along the Red Deer River, in a July 28, 2020 story. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Second person charged for alleged assault at anti-racism rally in Red Deer

A second person is facing charges following an alleged assault during an… Continue reading

Alberta Union of Provincial Employees vice-president Bonnie Gustola criticized provincial government layoffs at a rally that drew more than 80 people at City Hall Park on Friday.
Photo by PAUL COWLEY/Advocate staff
More than 80 rally in Red Deer against government health, education cutbacks

Rally at City Hall Park organized by the Council for Canadians

The higher the education level, the higher the income of some 1.3 million post-secondary graduates surveyed between 2010 and 2015, with master's degrees paying off the most. But the findings also suggest that gender and timing matter. (Black Press Media File).
2020 high school grads won’t get their ceremony

Decision announced by Lindsay Thurber and Hunting Hills high schools, and Gateway Christian School

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson, B.C. NDP leader John Horgan and B.C. Greens leader Sonia Furstenau. (Black Press Media)
VIDEO: One day until B.C. voters go to the polls in snap election defined by pandemic

NDP Leader John Horgan’s decision to call an election comes more than a year ahead of schedule and during a pandemic

Alice Kolisnyk, deputy director of the Red Deer Food Bank, says the agency expects an increase in demand as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. Every new subscription to the Red Deer Advocate includes a $50 donation to the food bank. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
Support the food bank with a subscription to the Red Deer Advocate

The community’s most vulnerable members are always in need of a hand,… Continue reading

New voluntary measures, including the encouragement of more mask wearing, have been introduced in the Edmonton health zone. “Red Deer has been very fortunate to have relatively low case numbers . . . relative to the rest of the province and the country,” says Mayor Tara Veer. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
POLL: Should Alberta have stricter rules to help prevent the spread of COVID-19?

Should Alberta have stricter rules to help prevent the spread of COVID-19?… Continue reading

Police in Ottawa are investigating an incident of hate-motivated graffiti at the National War Memorial. The alleged incident happened last Friday night, when police say a man, shown in a police handout photo, used a sharp object to engrave a hateful message on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. THE CANADIAN PRESSS/HO-Ottawa Police Service MANDATORY CREDIT
Ottawa police investigating hate-motivated graffiti incident at National War Memorial

Ottawa police investigating hate-motivated graffiti incident at National War Memorial

Indigenous fisherman Robert Syliboy stands on the wharf in Saulnierville, N.S. on Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020. Tensions remain high over an Indigenous-led lobster fishery that has been the source of conflict with non-Indigenous fishermen. THE CANADIAN PRESS /Andrew Vaughan
For Mi’kmaq fishers, dreams of a peaceful harvest on N.S. waters repeatedly dashed

For Mi’kmaq fishers, dreams of a peaceful harvest on N.S. waters repeatedly dashed

RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki speaks during a news conference in Ottawa, Wednesday October 21, 2020. Perry Bellegarde, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, says he is set to tell Prime Minister Justin Trudeau he has 'lost confidence' in RCMP Commissioner Lucki. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Bellegarde wants Brenda Lucki out as head of RCMP

Bellegarde wants Brenda Lucki out as head of RCMP

This image released by CBS All Access shows Dan Illescas, left, and Tracey Stabile of the Central Texas Pig Rescue in a scene from the CBS All Access docuseries "That Animal Rescue Show." (Danny Matson/CBS All Access via AP)
Animals, people rescue each other in heartfelt docuseries

Animals, people rescue each other in heartfelt docuseries

Ryen Williams, 11, with a lost miniature horse at JJ Collett Oct. 23. Photo by Don Williams
UPDATE: Owners found

Father and son found him while out for a walk at JJ Collett

Red Deer Rebels forward Jaxsen Wiebe scores his sixth goal of the WHL season in the first period against the Tri-City Americans on Saturday night at the Centrium. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
WHL grants players temporary transfer until mid-December

Players are eligible to suit up in Junior A, Junior B and U-18 ranks

Most Read