Shares of Aurora Cannabis (NYSE:ACB) had sunk 7.6% lower as of 11:18 a.m. EST on Monday after falling as much as 10.2% earlier in the day. The drop came after Aurora announced the departure of Cam Battley, who had served as the company's chief corporate officer since 2018 and joined Aurora in 2016.
Battley had increasingly become the face of Aurora Cannabis over the last couple of years. During the company's quarterly earnings conference calls, he spoke more about Aurora's strategy and performance than CEO Terry Booth did. Because of his highly visible role and the unexpected timing of his departure, Battley's stepping down rattled investors already concerned about a series of miscues made by Aurora, including one resulting in the recent suspension of its medical cannabis sales in Germany.
It's not fully clear what caused Battley's exit. Aurora's press release mentioned that he had been appointed to MedReleaf Australia's board of directors in November. Terry Booth stated, "We are grateful for Cam's leadership and passion over his many years with Aurora. I am sure Cam will be successful as he moves on to tackle Australia." However, serving as a board member with MedReleaf Australia doesn't sound like a step up from being one of the top two executives with a major Canadian cannabis producer.
Investors can't be blamed for wondering if there's more to the story than what Aurora has revealed so far. If Battley was pushed out because of Aurora's recent problems, that's probably not a reason to be too concerned. But if there are problems that haven't surfaced yet, it's another story altogether.
Aurora is at a critical juncture as it ramps up for a new stage in the Canadian recreational cannabis market and hopes to land a partner to enter the U.S. CBD market. The company seemed to acknowledge the pivotal moment, stating, "As the Canadian cannabis industry evolves, Aurora continues to enhance its executive team to be fit for the longevity of the industry in Canada and beyond."
But like quite a few Canadian marijuana stocks, Aurora could experience a lot more volatility in the months ahead. The company remains unprofitable, with most of its options to raise additional capital involving more share dilution. Whoever replaces Cam Battley will face a tough challenge.