Gum And Candy Billionaire William Wrigley Jr. Is Getting Into The Medical Marijuana Business
When you think of the Wrigley name, you probably associate it with the brand’s ubiquitous chewing gum, or Wrigley Field, the company’s eponymous home of the Chicago Cubs. Now, “Wrigley” is about to have a whole new connotation — with medical marijuana, thanks to William “Beau” Wrigley, Jr., joining medical cannabis start-up Surterra Wellness as chairman of the board.
The scion of the Wrigley Company empire helped lead the sale of the family business to Mars Inc. in 2008, and in 2010, he left the company founded by his great-grandfather. Wrigley is now president of Wychwood Asset Management, a company that invests in a range of venture capital and private equity interests.
He led Surterra’s recent $65 million equity fundraising round, which brings the total capital raised for the Atlanta, Georgia-based company to more than $100 million. (Georgia legalized medical marijuana in 2015.)
Wrigley became interested in the medical marijuana business when he saw the impact it could have on people’s health.
“I haven’t been this excited about a business in a very long time,” he said in a statement provided to the Chicago Tribune. “This is about helping people. It can give people a normal life, let them go to school and be a normal member of society. It is incredible to craft that opportunity in an industry that is starting from scratch.”
Surterra will use the new funds for clinical trials to test marijuana’s treatment capabilities for common conditions like pain, anxiety and PTSD, as well as to construct cultivation space in Florida, one of two states in which it has a license to operate (the other is Texas). The company hopes that Wrigley’s name will improve the industry’s image among skeptics.
“It’s great to have verification from a well-known name brand and business leader that we are indeed a professional industry and the industry has grown up, so to speak,” Surterra CEO Jake Bergmann told the Tribune.
“When I understood the massive benefits, it really changed my mind about the [#MedicalCannabis] industry” – William “Beau” Wrigley Jr. II, Surterra’s new Chairman of the Board of Directors, via @Business: https://t.co/fNanTFzwFz pic.twitter.com/5IkwGFOSK9
— Surterra Wellness (@Surterra) August 6, 2018
Forbes reported in March 2018 that spending on legal cannabis worldwide is poised to hit $57 billion by 2027, according to “The Road Map to a $57 Billion Worldwide Market,” a report by Arcview Market Research and BDS Analytics. The recreational market will account for 67 percent of the spending, while medical marijuana will account for the remaining 33 percent. What’s more, the industry employed 121,000 people in 2017.
Although Surterra’s current product offerings are strictly for medical use, according to Bloomberg, Wrigley says the company will eventually participate in the recreational market in the United States. Only nine states have legalized the sale and consumption of marijuana by adults for recreational use, but other states are expected to have initiatives for legalization on the November ballot this year.
Wrigley is not the only high-profile business person to invest in marijuana. PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel has also thrown his support behind the industry. Even those in the entertainment industry are cashing in on the highly lucrative market, whether through investments or through the launch of their own personal brands of marijuana-related products, including Willie Nelson, Whoopi Goldberg, Calvin Broadus (aka Snoop Dogg) and Kiss frontman Gene Simmons, as well as the estate of Bob Marley.