WILL CURALEAF ADMIT ABRAMOVICH CONNECTIONS?
Even as Britain sanctioned Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich --number 6 on the Russian billionaire list with a $12.3Bill. fortune-- this week, CuraLeaf again refused to offer any details on how the company's 2nd largest shareholder's proceeding in 2018-2020 investment of millions into Canadian stock exchange-traded public firm, CURLF. New York-born Boris Alekseyevich Jordan, CuraLeaf's 31% owner, spent the fall of last year raising millions for his other mega-company-- his 59%-owned Renaissance Insurance. With years of financial backing by EZRAV-- the Russian conglomerate owned by Abramovich-- a new $250Mil. public offering [not directly flowing to CuraLeaf] closed at the end of 2021.
On the 2018-2020 possible CuraLeaf investments by oligarch Andrei Blokh-- Forbes list number 71 richest oligarch and 21% ownership in the cannabis firm--- CuraLeaf vice president for corporate communications, Tracy Brady wrote West420 News: "We do not provide details about specific shareholders that are not already in public." On Feb. 25th, the day after Russian invaded Ukraine, Jordan tweeted: "our second largest shareholder is Andrei Blokh, a successful retired CPG entrepreneur who is not active in the Company. Mr. Blokh is a U.S. citizen, who also holds a Russian passport," stating that no sanctions could be lodged against any CuraLeaf investor, repeatedly calling in his American-born status as sheilding him from any U.S. federal action against his assets. Jordan's tweet failed to mention that Blokh holds dual-citizenship as a naturalized American, and lives in Moscow, where he still is involved with several Abramovich-connected businesses.
On May 3, CuraLeaf reported it’s 2021 results climbing to a record $1.2Bill (up 93%), indicating that both retail and wholesale revenue more than doubled to $860M and $347M from a year ago. While the company experienced a tough 4th quarter (sales were flat from prior year), CURLF promised new SELECT-branded products heading its 120+ stores in 11 states, with a projection that 2022 could reach the $1.5-$1.6Bil. level. In the 75 minute analyst voice call, never mentioning the Ukrainian war, Jordan said he expects to see the company expand with a planned start of adult-use in its three New Jersey MMJ stores by mid-May, will expand its Arizona footprint with the addition of Tryke Industries holdings, and will bring new efficiencies to extracted oil/edible products through its installing of a proprietary “ACE” processing system. On March 24, the New Jersey cannabis commission is slated to issue licenses for current state MMJ operators to expand into adult-use sales. The Bellmawr, NJ CuraLeaf MMJ store is seven miles over the Delaware River from downtown Philadelphia, a market of 1.6Million, with no RMJ access.
But Barron's 2020 business report on the Blokh and Abramovich was examined in their article: "Deep Russian Roots." Said Barron's of CuraLeaf: "The company is the creation of Russian-heritage billionaires who are American citizens. Its chairman is Boris Jordan, a banking success who was integrally involved in Russia’s complicated capitalist transition. His major investment partner is Andrei Blokh, well known as a former business associate of Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich. Abramovich is chronicled in the popular press as the owner of England’s Chelsea Football Club and for his behemoth “superyachts.”..... For his part, Blokh grew immensely wealthy in Abramovich-tied oil deals and, of all things, milk products. His consolidation of the Russian dairy industry under the Unimilk umbrella and its subsequent 2010 sale in to Danone made him wealthy beyond most imaginations." Barrons continued its feature: " In an interview with Barron’s, Jordan was emphatic: Blokh’s old friendship aside, Abramovich has nothing to do with the company," said the CuraLeaf owner.
West 420 reporters have been unsuccessful in gaining greater clarity over the 2017 purchase of Blokh’s Nevada-based cannabis company --House of Herbs -- which preceeded the reverse-stock issuance of the new "CuraLeaf" in 2018. The original Jordan twelve-percent investment in PalliaTech in 2017 from current executive/board member Joe Lusardi, led to renaming of the surviving entity as CuraLeaf. Lusardi has been instrumental in growing company assets in licenses in Maine, Massachusetts, New York and New Jersey.
In reporting the Renaissance capital raise, Interfax (Dec. 20, 2021 ) detailed the participants in the new flow of millions to Jordan's all-digital insurance agency: " Credit Suisse, J.P.Morgan and VTB Capital acted as the joint global coordinators and joint bookrunners, BCS Global Markets was senior bookrunner and Renaissance Capital, Sberbank Tinkoff Bank and Sova Capital were joint bookrunners. The free float after the IPO was about 24%. The Sputnik Group of Jordan and his partners owns 38.3% of the insurer, Baring Vostok holds 13.7%, a company controlled by billionaire Roman Abramovich owns 9.7%, and his partners Alexander Abramov, Alexander Frolov and and Andrey Gorodilov control 7%, 3.5% and 3.2%, respectively." https://interfax.com/newsroom/top-stories/73421/ In the IPO offering, selling shareholders included Sputnik Management Services (and affiliate Holding Renaissance Insurance), which represents the group of investors led by Jordan; Baring Vostok through Notivia Ltd; companies owned by Evraz Plc billionaires Alexander Abramov and Alexander Frolov; and Andrey Gorodilov, who worked at Roman Abramovich’s oil producer Sibneft and was later deputy governor of Chukotka.
Asked for comment on Jordan's chairman role at Renaissance, Brady wrote West 420 saying "Curaleaf does not represent the interests of Renaissance Insurance; please address questions to that company directly." We forwarded a request for comment to the Russian insurance firm at the email provided by CuraLeaf, and at press time had received no response. Here is Jordan's upbeat Dec., 2021 interview with CNBC on the all-digital insurance prospects: https://www.cnbc.com/video/2021/12/07/renaissance-insurance-we-are-one-of-the-largest-and-most-profitable-fintechs-in-the-world.html
March 10's UK newspaper, The Guardian reported: " Abramovich was targeted because the government’s Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation suspected that a steel company he had effective control of, Evraz plc, supplied steel to the Russian military to produce tanks." As the owner of a major British soccer team, Abramovich has frantically looked for a new owner to sell the $2Bil.-plus valued franchise, but the UK sanction will halt any potential business with British companies. Abramovich was reported to be a close Putin ally for much of the former KGS's 22 years as the Russian ruler.
Above: On Feb. 25, New York investor, "Betting Bruiser" issued a $10,000 challenge to Jordan to declare support for Ukraine, as had been done earlier by CEO's at Truleive and Green Thumb Industries. The tweek(below) drew a quick response from Jordan who called Bruiser xenophobic, and called for diplomacy and "a peaceful resolution that protects the lives of all citizens on both sides of this conflict.”
Below: MEDIA SAVVY JORDAN conducts another business cable interview from the newly purchased $14Mil. estate he purchased in Boca Raton, FL (bottom left) estate he acquired at end of 2021 for $14Mill. Bottom right: CuraLeaf co-founder Blokh. In April, 2019, Russia Business Today reported "Andrei Blokh was a long-time partner of Abramovich, being engaged in his oil business in the late 1990s, and in 1998 he headed oil company Sibneft. After the sale of Sibneft, Bloch took up Abramovich’s assets in the food industry, collecting Planet Management from disparate enterprises, and then together with a partner bought the dairy part of this business, Unimilk. In 2010, Unimilk announced a merger with the Danone division in Russia; until 2016, Bloch remained a major shareholder of the combined company." Full story at: https://
Part 1-- report from March 3, 2022......
A relentless pursuit of assets-- brands, retailers and grows--has pushed CuraLeaf to the number one spot in total cannabis revenues. But the billions which have poured into the company from Russian oligarchs and former friends of the executive chairman, will shave out the backing of one Russian billionaire and could be the start of a totally changed CuraLeaf. Boris Jordan, 52, may have thought his countless acquisitions--from buying SELECT in 2019 to absorbing NorthEast licenses with co-founder Joe Lusardi-- could thrive under the mantle of being a Canadian public company. But this week's Ukraine invasion--and response from Western allies to bring unprecedented financial sanctions-- is about to freeze assets of the 21%(down from 29%) owner of CuraLeaf, Russian oligarch Andrei Blokh, a close associate of Jordan. But other Russian oligarchs-- Ruben Vardanyanm and Roman Abramovich are likely to be examined for past funding of many mega-deals-- all likely to to put an unblinking glare on the entire CuraLeaf enterprise. Jordan's closely held SPUTNIK--an early supplier of CuraLeaf millions--is coming under government scrutiny as U.S. officials, according to sources, who want to close off all North American funds slated to be shared with Russian business ties.
"No other cannabis firm has this kind of foreign investment profile," noted a senior cannabis DC source seeking anonymity to speak, adding: "Now with Putin's Ukraine invasion, American MJ consumers will have to decide if their spending with Curaleaf, Select or UKU may have been part of sending profits to Moscow," even as the world recoils at the Russian-initiated death and carnage ahead in the Ukrainian. But its will not stop with the secretive Jordan--or with Blokh--as the glare of financial reckoning beings to untangle the Russian sources of d of cash and control flowing into/out of Russia could ultimately lead to a disintegration of CuraLeaf-- also driven by new state regulators not interested in advancing the fortunes of such a oligarch-driven mega-cannabis MSO. The day after Putin's first attack on Ukraine, CuraLeaf released this tweet: " “Curaleaf is an American success story founded by Me! Pls stop spreading misinformation. I was born in the US and live and work in the US! Our shareholder Andrei Blokh is also a US citizen" -- but Blokh resides in Moscow full time. Later at week's end, the company released another statement, this one not directly quoting Jordan. "The speculation on social media that the company and its major shareholders and executives will somehow be subject to any US government economic sanctions now or in the future is incorrect."
Of all top 25 MSOs, U.S. and Canadian owned companies have some foreign investors, but nothing on the scale of what Jordan has collected-- initially justified by the easy entry for CuraLeaf into gaining vertical licenses in Florida(37), Pennsylvania (12), Illinois (10), Arizona (9), Missouri (5) and four valuable verticals in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Michigan. (see map above) Massive U.S.-NATO nation sanctions are laser-focused on under-cutting access and movement of cash in-and-out of Russia--with a unknown number of additional Russian backers of CuraLeaf likely to see assets frozen.
But the deeper story at CuraLeaf beginning to un-ravel is the long-term team which 31% owner Jordan has assembled to run the Boston/Vancouver based MSO. A New York-born American, Jordan's family raised him as a Russian speaker, reminded him of his lineage back to Alexander I, and led him to head to Russia in the late 1990s to be part of the collapse of communism, but start of new corruption as oligarchs (and Jordan himself) profited from selling off state-owned oil, gas, food, real estate and media in much of 200-2012.
From the current CuraLeaf board of directors, Peter Derby founded Dialog Banks(1989) and Troika Dialog (1991-97) which later became the vehicle for $8-$9billion in outflows from Russia, post laundered. Some of those funds flowed to the control of Andray Rozov, who has been connected to a plan for $310Mil. going to Trump Tower Toronto, and a pre-Presidential plan for more millions to build Trump Tower Moscow. (See the "Troika Laundramat" story at https://www.icij.org/inside-icij/2019/03/troika-laundromat-reveals-russian-banks-8-8bn-offshore-scheme/ )
Karl Johansson, another CuraLeaf board member worked from 1995 to 2014 on various Russian financial posts, notably Ernst Young CIS' Moscow office, and as a director of an financial advisory for Ukraine, Kazatstan and Latvia. Jordan brought his long-time general counsel, Peter Laurence Clateman to Curaleaf in 2018, after Clateman's 15 year work at SPUTNIK, a key source of all first-hand data on Jordan's company dealings. Johansson is chair of Russian's Acra Ratings, and was a veteran of the early 200os "aluminum wars" which created mega-mineral firm, Untel Co Rusa. Another key exec., CuraLeaf senior vice president for business development Edward Kelenchuk, was another long-time investment insider at SPUTNIK.
Each year Forbes compiles its list of Russian oligarchs, noting for 2021, Andrei Blokh now ranks number 71, with an estimated net worth growing to $1.9Bill., with stock holding in CuraLeaf that likely exceed $900Mil. in stock market cap. In 2019, Blokh's net worth of $905 million earned him the 101st spot on Forbes’ 2019 ranking published on Thursday. His former business partner, Roman Abramovich, placed 10th with a net worth of $12.4 billion. Forbes reported: "Andrei Blokh was a long-time partner of Abramovich, being engaged in his oil business in the late 1990s, and in 1998 he headed oil company Sibneft. After the sale of Sibneft, Bloch took up Abramovich’s assets in the food industry, collecting Planet Management from disparate enterprises, and then together with a partner bought the dairy part of this business, Unimilk." For the years when Jordan himself ventured to the post-USSR in the late 1990s, a lucrative series of his own role in privatizing Soviet assets meant connecting with many in or near Putin's trusted circle--and setting up his own mega-investment firm, SPUTNIK, which he still chairs today, along with Renaissance Insurance, a major Russian insurer.
Other Russians have not been so fortunate to have their U.S. cannabis investment plans work out. A convuluted attempt to lock down Southern California retail licenses by Russian millionaire Dima Bosov ended with his "suspicious" death. And other Rudy Guilliani associates (Lev Parnas and others) attempted to gain entry into the Nevada cannabis industry with unsuccessful mega-dollar bribes to Nevada politicians. Other Russian investments into the U.S. cannabis sector are likely to also come to light, with sanctions digging deep into the past ten years.
The Americans at CuraLeaf: Joe Lusardi saw his MJ metering device company, Pallia Tech, get an early 2017 investment of 12% from Jordan. Lusardi also founded the first MMJ dispensary in Maine, and was an early entrant into Massachusetts medical. His company was granted one of the precious New Jersey MMJ permits, and today he is active working to expand the CuraLeaf footprint in New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. PalliaTech was renamed CuraLeaf, and Lusardi is named as "co-founder" of CuraLeaf itself, although the subsequent purchases on Bloom, Tryke, Grass Roots and SELECT were the foundations that took CuraLeaf to see an expected $1.62Bil. in 2021 gross revenues. GrassRoots founder Matt Davin sits on CuraLeaf's board, having sold his major MSO holdings to Jordan, and Mitch Kahn also is a board member having been a co-founder of GrassRoots--a sale for $900Mil in 2019. See the extended OregonLive story here:
Reaching back for the Washington Post op-ed which in 2007, Jordan seemed to be looking for
a kind word on why Putin had little hope of working with the West. Jordan reasoned: "They also see their stability compromised by American support for the Orange and Rose revolutions in the former Soviet Bloc nations and the rumblings of NATO expansion into Ukraine and Georgia. Russians once had high hopes for a partnership with the United States," even as Jordan worked on U.S.-Russian cooperation, adding "but today they look back on years of real and perceived transgressions and ask, “If these are allies, why do we want them?” Today, after going to Russia to brag about his roots to Alexander I, his fluent Russian, and his ability to move in the all-powerful Putin power group, Jordan this week reverted to his stance as am American citizen, placing doubt on any talk of sanctions on him or his executive team.
"Sanctions are going to be deep and unrelenting-- Jordan's partner Blokh has a massive target on his back," noted another industry expert, "and getting Curaleaf money flows back to Moscow is about to become impossible."
Much like a Russian nesting doll-- with each layer of interconnectivie only apparent after you open the next -- developments at CuraLeaf will yeild even further evidence of a massive flow of Russian oligarch cash. That West420 News coverage in part 2 next week.
BELOW: CURALEAF Directors and Senior Management profiled. Compiled by TheOrigin Source.
Coming up Thu, March 3rd Curaleaf Fourth Quarter and Fiscal Year End 2021 Financial Results Conference Call. March 3, 2022 -- 5:00 p.m. ET--Live Call: +1-888-317-6003 (U.S.), +1-866-284-3684 (Canada) or +1-412-317-6061 (In't) Passcode: 1618049 --- Webcast: https://ir.curaleaf.com/events