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Jodi Butts' nomination to board of pot company Aphria could be worth $300,000

Gerald Butts, former principal secretary to the prime minister, with his wife, Jodi Butts at The Ottawa Hospital Gala on Saturday, November 5, 2016.
Gerald Butts, former principal secretary to the prime minister, with his wife, Jodi Butts at The Ottawa Hospital Gala on Saturday, November 5, 2016.

Jodi Butts, the wife of Gerry Butts, former principal secretary to Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, has been nominated to the board of cannabis company Aphria Inc., according to company filings made public Tuesday in conjunction with the licensed producers’ quarterly financial results.

Jodi Butts, a lawyer by trade, was nominated as part of a broader board shakeup at Aphria which saw three longtime board members, including Michael Serruya — founder of dessert chain Yogen Fruz and an active investor in the cannabis space — not seeking renomination to their roles.

The board nominations are expected to be confirmed on Nov. 14 at the company’s annual shareholder meeting. In a proxy circular distributed to shareholders, Aphria referenced Butts’ “significant governance experience” having served on the board of a number of other companies including Canada Goose Inc., Dot Health, a digital health tech startup, and the University of Windsor.

Aphria board members receive a compensation of $150,000 annually in cash, and deferred share units worth another $150,000

Company filings show that Aphria board members receive a compensation of $150,000 annually in cash, and deferred share units worth another $150,000 — an amount that is slightly above the industry average of $125,000 for a company of Aphria’s size. Board members of some of Canada’s largest banks, for example, receive an annual compensation of between $250,000 and $300,000.

In the 2019 fiscal year, Butts received a compensation of $87,500 for sitting on the board of Canada Goose.

“As we continue to add bench strength to the company, Jodi will bring exceptional experience to the board. Not only as a seasoned executive, but as a lawyer and entrepreneur and particularly when it comes to governance and driving growth within organizations,” said Aphria spokesperson Tamara Macgregor.

The Leamington, Ont.-based cannabis company has come under scrutiny for corporate governance issues after it became the target of short sellers alleging company executives had engaged in self-dealing and purchased a number of cannabis assets in Latin America for an inflated price.

The short seller attack led to a number of executive departures and board changes at the company earlier this year, including two of Aphria’s founders and its former CEO Vic Neufeld. In April, at the behest of the Ontario Securities Commission, Aphria had to take a $50 million writedown of its Latin American assets, which added to the company’s financial struggles that quarter.

The company now boasts some big names on its board, including former co-CEO of Whole Foods Walter Robb and international sports marketing executive David Hopkinson, who serves as football club Real Madrid’s Global Head of Partnerships.

Aphria has six other independent directors, including John Herhalt a former executive at accounting firm KPMG who sits on the Liberal Party’s national board of directors as treasurer, according to the party’s website.

In 2016, Trudeau came under fire from former NDP leader Thomas Mulcair and ethics advocacy group Democracy Watch for appointing Herhalt to the role of treasurer in the same month that a parliamentary committee filled with Liberals halted an investigation into KPMG’s offshore tax practices.

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019

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