Green Thumb CEO Calls Chicago Tribune Story ‘Irresponsible Journalism,’ Demands Retraction

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Does Green Thumb Industries (GTI) also grease palms in order to secure its highly coveted marijuana licenses?

Not according to Ben Kovler, founder and CEO of the Chicago-headquartered company, which reported $556 million in revenue last year and ranks as the second largest cannabis firm in the U.S.

In an official statement issued Wednesday, Kovler fired back at the Chicago Tribune, which earlier this week published a story alleging that GTI was under federal investigation for so-called “pay-to-play” lobbying tactics.

“The Chicago Tribune has published unfounded allegations that completely contradict our corporate values,” he said.

According to the Tribune, which cited anonomouys sources, “investigators have been scrutinizing campaign donations and other steps Green Thumb Industries took as it sought to secure growing and distribution licenses in Illinois and several other states.”

Green Thumb has denied the claim and called the allegations “baseless.”

“The reporter did not cite any credible sources nor evidence, and published under a salacious front page headline intended to mislead,” Kovler said.

The official response came after Kovler reacted to the news on Twitter, saying his company first learned about the probe when the Chicago Tribune called seeking comment.

Kovler later questioned why the Tribune would “publish a headline with no apparent credible sources,” and called the report “fake news.”

In its statement, Green Thumb said it “possesses absolutely no evidence to corroborate claims that there is an open investigation by federal authorities,” and has demanded the Tribune issue a retraction.

“This is not just irresponsible journalism but reckless behavior that impacts the livelihood of our employees, the close bond to the communities in which we serve, and the trust of our investors,” Kovler said via the statement

The initial report, filed on Monday evening, sent the company’s stock plunging on Tuesday. However, shares have since rebounded and numerous analysts have issued positive investor notes encouraging or reiterating their “buy” ratings.

“GTI has led the industry in proactively establishing regulatory compliance with its transition to U.S. GAAP and first to register with the SEC, among other things, to set standards above the line,” wrote Roth Capital Partners. “We side with GTI and the management team, as we feel this is without merit, and the allegations brought on by the Chicago Tribune using unnamed sources possess no hard evidence of wrongdoing by GTI.”

Former GTI chief executive Peter Kadens, an early investor and board member, also broke his silence on Wednesday.

“We live in a world where anyone can say anything and it’s apparently instantly asserted as fact,” he wrote on LinkedIn, calling the information provided to the Tribune by unnamed sources “lies.”

“Ben Kovler and I were in the trenches together for years building Green Thumb Industries (GTI),” Kadens wrote. “He and his team have done an incredible job since I left in 2018. We always did the right thing, sometimes even if it hurt, and sometimes even if we lost as a result of doing the right thing.”

Kadens has also called for the Tribune to retract its article.

Publication of the story came just days before New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed an adult-use cannabis bill into law.

Green Thumb is one of just 10 existing licensed operators in New York that will be allowed to vertically-integrate with recreational sales set to begin in 2022.

“With three stores open and a ~45,000 sq. ft. production facility in NY, we believe the business well-positioned to capture what we believe is a ~$4-$5B addressable market once mature,” Roth Capital wrote.

The Chicago Tribune has not retracted its story. Rather, editor-in-chief Colin McMahon has said the outlet “stands by its reporting and will continue to pursue this story.”

In a follow-up article filed by “Chicago Tribune Staff” on Wednesday, the outlet admitted its reporters did not know “what specific aspects of Green Thumb’s political giving, hiring or other activities were being scrutinized by federal authorities” when the initial story was filed.

“The exact time frame and origin of the probe were not known,” Tribune staff added.

Green Thumb's full statement is included below. 

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Green Thumb Industries Responds to Baseless Allegations by Chicago Tribune

CHICAGO and VANCOUVER, British Columbia, March 31, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Green Thumb Industries Inc. (“Green Thumb,” or the “Company”) (CSE: GTII) (OTCQX: GTBIF), a leading national cannabis consumer packaged goods company and owner of Rise™ Dispensaries, possesses absolutely no evidence to corroborate claims that there is an open investigation by federal authorities as alleged in an article by the Chicago Tribune under a misleading headline published on March 29, 2021.

Green Thumb first learned of the alleged probe into supposed violations regarding obtaining licenses from a Chicago Tribune reporter who cited unnamed sources shortly before the article was published. Federal authorities have made no effort to initiate contact with Green Thumb.

“The Chicago Tribune has published unfounded allegations that completely contradict our corporate values,” said Green Thumb Founder and CEO Ben Kovler. “The reporter did not cite any credible sources nor evidence, and published under a salacious front page headline intended to mislead. This is not just irresponsible journalism but reckless behavior that impacts the livelihood of our employees, the close bond to the communities in which we serve, and the trust of our investors. Our company has secured licenses through competitive state-run programs and traditional M&A transactions. We have taken painstaking measures to scale compliantly as we provide access to well-being through cannabis, and will continue to hold ourselves to the highest standards.”

Green Thumb demands an immediate retraction of the article by the Chicago Tribune.

About Green Thumb Industries:

Green Thumb Industries Inc. (“Green Thumb”), a national cannabis consumer packaged goods company and owner of Rise™ dispensaries, promotes well-being through the power of cannabis while giving back to the communities in which it serves. Green Thumb manufactures and distributes a portfolio of branded cannabis products including Beboe, Dogwalkers, Dr. Solomon’s, incredibles, Rythm and The Feel Collection. The company also owns and operates rapidly growing national retail cannabis stores called Rise™. Headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, Green Thumb has 13 manufacturing facilities, licenses for 97 retail locations and operations across 12 U.S. markets. Established in 2014, Green Thumb employs over 2,400 people and serves thousands of patients and customers each year. The company was named a Best Workplace 2018 by Crain’s Chicago Business and MG Retailer magazine in 2018 and 2019.


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