Kuwaiti Billionaire Buying Up Canada's Cannabis Market
Bassam Alghanim is a Los Angeles-based Kuwaiti billionaire whose B.C. company Bzam Management is buying up and developing cannabis assets in British Columbia and Alberta, including a 100-acre farm near Midway B.C.
According to the B.C. corporate registry, billionaire Bassam Alghanim’s mailing address is a suite in the Al Johala Tower on Khalid Bin Waleed Street in Kuwait.
Alghanim, the Los Angeles consul for the Caribbean island nation of St. Kitts and Nevis, inherited a fortune from his father’s Kuwaiti-based industrial group and is a former chair of the Gulf Bank of Kuwait. The UC Berkeley graduate ran the family business for a while, but is now firmly ensconced in L.A., where he owns several adjoining properties in the north L.A. neighborhood of Bel Air, including a mansion bought last fall for $8.5 million.
Bzam is not an acronym and appears to be a play on Alghanim’s first name. He is listed as director (with the Kuwaiti address) of three British Columbia-registered companies whose names all start with Bzam.
Alghanim’s Canadian cannabis business began in January 2019, when he and two directors — president Matthew Milich and corporate secretary Antonio Moschella — registered the company Bzam Holdings in B.C. Milich, who is based in L.A., was manager of a California property management company that has the same business address as the St. Kitts and Nevis consular office on Santa Monica Boulevard in L.A. Milich is also director of nearby real estate financing company Brase Capital Management.
In February 2019, Bzam Holdings bought a controlling interest in Folium Life Sciences, which had a cultivation licence for an indoor cannabis growing facility in Saanichton, B.C.
The following month, Bzam Management Inc was registered in B.C. — with the same directors and addresses — while Bzam Plants Sciences Inc. was registered with Alghanim as the only director.
The Bzam companies are affiliated with Alghanim’s company Gulf Bridge Inc. — registered in the Cayman Islands, according to the Paradise Papers released by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists in 2017. Alghanim’s mailing address for Gulf Bridge is in L.A.
In March, Bzam bought a controlling interest in an Edmonton company (since renamed Bzam Cannabis Corp.) that has cannabis cultivation, processing and medical sales licenses.
Bzam then paid $4.85 million for an 18-per-cent stake in the Rock Creek, B.C.-based Speakeasy Cannabis Club (listed on the Canadian Stock Exchange) — making Bzam the majority shareholder with an option to buy three million Speakeasy shares for $1 a share by April 2021 (they were selling for 49 cents each on July 16).
Speakeasy has an established B.C. cannabis operation in Rock Creek (a 15-minute drive from Midway) with a 10,000-square-foot Health Canada-licensed indoor grow operation and a 60-acre outdoor grow area that is expected to produce 70,000 kilograms of cannabis this year. The company has Health Canada licenses to cultivate, process and sell.
In April, Bzam bought the Canadian assets of troubled local company Ascent Industries — listed on the Canadian Securities Exchange and close to bankruptcy after Health Canada revoked its licenses to grow and process in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows after it uncovered “unauthorized activities.”
Bzam paid $41.5 million for the Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows growing and processing facilities and a 600,000 square-foot greenhouse in Pitt Meadows. The licenses have since been restored in the name of Bzam and the company is applying for a license for the greenhouse. (Ascent stayed afloat and is now listed as Luff Enterprises, operating licensed cannabis facilities in Oregon and Nevada.)
In September 2019, Bzam bought the Midway farm and in May 2020 purchased the Midway Hotel.
Calls to reach Alghanim at his consular office were referred to Bzam’s downtown Vancouver headquarters and the chief marketing officer, Jordan Winnet.
Winnet would not reveal the reasons Alghanim decided to invest in the Canadian cannabis market, saying the billionaire preferred to stay out of the story.
He did provide a timeline of the company’s cannabis investments, adding that Health Canada is reviewing the cultivation license for the Midway farm and the company expects it to be licensed and operational by spring 2021.
The farm is expected to employ 25 full-time workers, plus 25 seasonal workers — all hired locally.
Most of the estimated 50,000 kg annual crop will be used to create distillate at Bzam’s Pitt Meadows processing facility to use in vape pens. Choice buds will be kept aside to sell as smokable material.