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Aurora Cannabis Brings a Billionaire on Board: The 3 Most Important Things to Know

By Keith Speights - Updated Apr 13, 2019 at 10:23AM

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With Aurora's addition of a well-connected strategic advisor, should investors be looking for big deals on the way?

Aurora Cannabis (ACB -6.49%) appears to be on a roll. The No. 2 marijuana producer in terms of market cap captured 20% of the Canadian recreational market in the last quarter. Aurora began shipping lucrative cannabis oils this week to Germany, the most important marijuana market outside North America. And now Aurora has brought a billionaire into the fold.

The company has appointed Nelson Peltz as a strategic advisor to help it explore potential partnerships. Aurora's share price jumped as much as 16% in early trading on the news.

What's the big deal about Peltz teaming up with Aurora Cannabis? Here are the three most important things you need to know.

Shadow of a dollar sign on top of a pile of marijuana leaves

Image source: Getty Images.

1. Who Nelson Peltz is

Peltz is the founder and CEO of Trian Fund Management, a multibillion-dollar investment firm. Trian owns significant stakes in several big companies, including packaged-foods company Mondelez, consumer-goods giant Procter & Gamble, food-products wholesaler Sysco, and fast-food chain Wendy's. Peltz serves as chairman of the board of directors for Wendy's and is a member of the board for P&G and Sysco.

Peltz's background also includes serving as CEO of Triarc Companies. During his time at the helm of Triarc, the company owned Arby's Restaurant Group and the Snapple Beverage Group, among other businesses. Earlier in his career, Peltz was CEO of the metal-component manufacturer Triangle Industries.

In his current role, Peltz became known as an activist investor. He led Trian to invest in public companies that appeared to be undervalued, and then pushed the companies' management teams to implement changes to unlock their stocks' value.

Check out the latest earnings call transcripts for the companies we cover.

2. Why this is a big deal for Aurora

Aurora Cannabis has a lot going for it: The company claims an industry-leading production capacity, and its international operations rank among the best for Canadian marijuana producers. But unlike rivals Canopy Growth, Cronos Group, and Tilray, Aurora doesn't have a major partner outside of the cannabis industry.

The lack of a big partner has put Aurora at a competitive disadvantage, especially compared to Canopy Growth. A $4 billion investment from alcoholic beverage maker Constellation Brands provided Canopy with a big cash stockpile to use in expanding; Aurora would love to have such a nice cash position to fund its expansion efforts.

Aurora Cannabis clearly hopes that adding Peltz as a strategic advisor will improve its prospects for landing a big partner -- and it might find more than one.

CEO Terry Booth said that Aurora looks forward to working with Peltz to "further extend our global cannabis industry leadership by aligning Aurora with each of the major market segments cannabis is set to impact." The segments that Booth referenced include beverages, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and wellness products.

Peltz's comments confirmed that he plans to actively seek out partners for Aurora. He stated that his collaboration with the company will include "potential engagement with mature players in consumer and other market segments."

3. How it could impact investors

Investors have already felt a positive impact from Aurora bringing Peltz on board, with the marijuana stock spiking after the announcement. One analyst, GMP Securities' Martin Landry, boosted his one-year price target for Aurora by more than 170%, because he thinks Aurora will now be much more likely to make strategic partnerships with Peltz's assistance.

If Peltz does help Aurora Cannabis line up a partnership along the lines of the deal between Canopy Growth and Constellation, the stock is likely to soar even more. A major partner could position Aurora to go toe-to-toe with Canopy for the mantle of the top player in the global cannabis industry.

Peltz has a strong financial motivation to help the company succeed. Aurora is granting him options to buy nearly 20 million shares at a price well below the current share price. These options vest on a quarterly basis over the next four years. But if certain milestones are achieved, including "the consummation of certain defined transactions" and Aurora stock trading at much higher levels for a specified number of days, the vesting of those options could be accelerated.

You can probably expect the new billionaire on Aurora's team to get to work quickly.

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