Wrigley Heir Chews Up Cannabis Industry
William "Beau" Wrigley Jr. believes he can emulate the success of his family's old chewing gum empire in the cannabis industry.
And Surterra Wellness, the company at which Wrigley is CEO, just landed a big chunk of capital to help achieve that goal.
The company, an Atlanta-based developer and retailer of cannabis products, raised $100 million to help fuel its rapid US and international expansion in the emerging cannabis industry. Among the investors participating in the round was Edward Brown, the former CEO and president of Patrón Spirits Company, which makes Patrón tequila and was sold to spirits company Bacardi last year.
Brown, who retired from Patrón in December after 20 years, recently joined Surterra's board as executive director.
With the latest infusion, Surterra has raised a total of $350 million and continues to "curate" an executive team with deep experience in building and scaling companies, Wrigley said.
"We understand how to execute," Wrigley said.
Surterra has a three-pronged strategy: Accumulating operations and licenses in existing cannabis markets; developing a "house of brands" that could sell globally; and advancing cannabis science and technology to disrupt not only sectors such as the beverages industry, but also the health care industry. That includes isolating various chemical compounds in the cannabis plant and targeting them for different health and wellness needs.
"I truly believe, in many respects, that I'm building the next Wrigley Company," he said.
And he believes Surterra could be even bigger than the multibillion-dollar chewing gum and mint company, of which he served as president and CEO until 2006. Mars, the confectioner that makes M&Ms and Milky Way, bought the Wrigley Company for $23 billion in 2008.
Surterra has been on an expansion bent since last fall when Wrigley invested $65 million in the firm and later took the helm as CEO. It has quickly grown from a holder of medical cannabis licenses in Florida and Texas to a multi-state operator, brand developer, and science and technology innovator.
Surterra signed licensing deals with the company behind "The Endless Summer" surfing documentary and singer Jimmy Buffett to sell Endless Summer and Coral Reefer-branded cannabis, respectively. The company also acquired operations in Nevada and Massachusetts, and it entered into a $100 million agreement with biotech firm Intrexon (XON) on a fermentation-based cannabis cultivation technology.
Earlier this week, Surterra bought Boston-based Molecular Infusions (Mi), a developer of cannabis therapeutic-focused products such as a fine-mist inhaler and additives that provide rapid onset and predictable dosing for cannabis-infused beverages.
The privately held Surterra does not disclose financial information, but Wrigley said the company is profitable.