An M&A agreement involving two of the biggest vertically integrated cannabis companies in the world was announced March 23.
Chicago-based Cresco Labs Inc. entered a definitive arranged agreement to acquire New York-based Columbia Care to the tune of roughly $2 billion, pursuant to which Cresco will acquire all of the issued and outstanding shares of Columbia Care in a transaction that is expected to close in the fourth quarter of 2022, Cresco announced early Wednesday morning.
If finalized, the acquisition would involve one of the largest price tags in the industry, rivaling that of Trulieve’s $2.1-billion deal to acquire Harvest Health last year (announced in May and completed in October), and of Tilray’s blockbuster merger with Aphria in May 2021, which created a company that had a combined market cap of US$8.2 billion at the time.
Based on closing stock prices March 22, Cresco and Columbia Care had a combined market cap of $2.94 billion, trailing only Curaleaf ($4.78 billion), Green Thumb Industries ($4.28 billion) and Trulieve ($3.53 billion).
“We are incredibly excited to announce this transformative transaction today at a very important time in the development of this industry,” Cresco Labs CEO Charles Bachtell said in a press release. “This acquisition brings together two of the leading operators in the industry, pairing a leading footprint with proven operational, brand and competitive excellence. The combination is highly complementary and provides unmatched scale, depth, diversification and long-term growth.”
He added, “The combination of Cresco Labs and Columbia Care accelerates our journey to become the leader in cannabis in a way no other potential transaction could.”
Some of the key transaction highlights outlined by Cresco include:
- Largest multistate operator by pro-forma revenue: Gives Cresco Labs the largest pro-forma revenue in cannabis today at over $1.4 billion.
- Strategic, national footprint: Over 130 retail stores across an 18 state market footprint, representing the No. 2 retail footprint in the industry, and the No. 1 retail footprint outside of Florida. The combined company will cover all 10 of BDSA’s top-10 largest and fastest-growing markets by 2025, representing approximately 55% of the U.S. population and more than 70% of addressable cannabis market.
- Market share leader in key states: Independently, the companies currently have No. 1 share positions in four markets (Illinois, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Virginia), a No. 2 share in Massachusetts, and a pathway to a top-three position in three more (New York, New Jersey and Florida), bringing the combined company to a material market position in seven of the top 10 markets by revenue in 2025, according to BDSA.
- Exposure to adult-use upside: The combined company will have a meaningful presence in today’s most influential markets including: New York, New Jersey, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland and Florida.
“Since our founding, our mission has been to deliver the best outcome for our stakeholders,” Columbia Care CEO Nicholas Vita said in the release. “In an evolving industry, the opportunities to better achieve our mission through consolidation led us to this historic moment. With Columbia Care’s strategic national footprint in the most attractive markets and Cresco Labs’ success in execution and incredibly popular brands, we will together create the most important— and the most investable—company in cannabis.”
With the companies having overlapping footprints in several key markets, including California, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania, selling off subsidiary business interests and investments could create one possible hurdle in closing the final deal, Reuters first reported.
Cresco currently operates in 10 states: Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. In addition, Cresco has 21 production facilities and a retail footprint of 50 locations in seven states, including 16 stores in Florida, where the company opened its most recent Sunnyside dispensary March 21.
With Cresco Labs’ products sold in more than 700 dispensaries across the country, it is the largest wholesaler of branded cannabis products in the U.S., according to the company’s website.
Meanwhile, Columbia Care operates in 18 U.S. jurisdictions and the European Union. The company has 32 cultivation and manufacturing facilities and 99 dispensaries, with a retail footprint that extends to Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Utah, Virginia, Washington, D.C., and West Virginia.
Columbia Care launched its Cannabist dispensary brand in 2021 and has approximately 375,000 square feet of combined retail space throughout the U.S. The company employs more than 2,600 workers, including roughly 1,500 in retail.
“We look forward to welcoming the incredible Columbia Care team to the Cresco Labs family,” Bachtell said. “I couldn’t be more excited about this enhanced platform and how it furthers the Cresco Labs vision—to be the most important and impactful company in cannabis."