William “Beau” Wrigley Jr., the scion of a family that built a chewing gum empire, decided to venture into the medical cannabis business. The former president and CEO of gum manufacturing giant Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co. has led a $65-million funding round for medical cannabis startup Surterra Wellness.
Surterra Wellness is based in Georgia with licenses to operate medical cannabis dispensaries and cultivation facilities in Texas and Florida.
Who is Beau Wrigley?
Wrigley took over the multibillion-dollar gum and candy business that his great-grandfather founded after the death of his father in 1999. He then led it through the acquisition of brands like Life Savers and Altoids from Kraft Foods’ candy division.
In 2008, Wrigley helped orchestrate the $23-billion sale of their family business to candy-maker Mars. He left the company in 2010 and now backs firms through a personal investment arm that is based in West Palm Beach, Florida.
The 54-year-old Wrigley first invested in Surterra Wellness in September last year. It is his first direct investment in the cannabis industry.
Surterra’s need for funding
The startup has been raising funds since 2015, and the Series C direct equity investment led by Wrigley brings the total capital it raised to over $100 million.
Surterra plans to use the new capital to boost its operations, as well as to expand its business to other states by winning operation licenses and through acquisitions. It also plans to use the funding to research marijuana’s treatment of conditions like anxiety and pain.
Wrigley as chairman of Suterra’s board
Moreover, Surterra has announced the Wrigley will be joining its board as chair. However, they did not disclose the value of his stake in the company.
Wrigley also serves as president of investment firm Wychwood Asset Management, which has venture capital and private equity interests.
Wrigley told the Chicago Tribune that he hasn’t been excited about a business in a very long time. He said that this investment is about helping people, giving people normal life, letting them go to school, and allowing them to be normal members of society.
He added that it is incredible to craft this kind of opportunity in an industry that is “starting from scratch.”
A good sign for the cannabis industry?
Surterra CEO Jake Bergmann said that Wrigley getting involved in their company shows that marijuana is already losing some of its stigma. It is not socially unacceptable anymore to be involved in the cannabis industry, he added.
Furthermore, Bergmann said that it is “great to have verification” from a credible brand and business leader that the cannabis industry is “indeed a professional industry” and that it has grown up.
Bergmann said that the expansion of Surterra to Illinois is a possibility. The medical cannabis program in this state is still in pilot phase, with the first dispensaries having opened only in late 2015. The medical cannabis patient count in Illinois, however, has already grown to more than 42,000.