A lucrative deal that would place a private Fort Lauderdale equity firm at the center of Florida’s fast-growing medical marijuana market is at risk of collapsing amid allegations of “ransom demands” and a corporate coup inside a state-licensed pot dispensary.
According to the details of a lawsuit brought by politically connected Panhandle developer Jay Odom against his partners, the shareholders of the Chestnut Hill Tree Farm cannabis nursery in Alachua have splintered over the pending sale of the company’s assets to a new operator. A partnership between South Florida’s Delavaco Group and publicly traded Canadian cannabis conglomerate Aphria announced the planned acquisition this month, but infighting has jeopardized the chances of completing a sale by a June 1 deadline.
Odom’s attorney, Barry Richard, downplayed the significance of the lawsuit in an interview as a “garden-variety business dispute.” But the overall value of Aphria’s deal to effectively buy a Florida cannabis cultivation and distribution license — one of only seven in the state, for now — has been valued at $177 million, and thousands of future patients could be affected.
“Both sides are a little nervous,” Richard acknowledged.
Both sides are a little nervous
attorney Barry Richard
Odom, whose push for a new airplane hangar led to the downfall of former state House Speaker Ray Sansom in the late 2000s, alleged in a civil complaint that troubles began last month after Delavaco Group executives raised the possibility of using an affiliate to buy shares in Chestnut Hill Tree Farm, which opened its marijuana operations in January under the name CHT Medical.
The marijuana dispensary’s directors, a group that includes Odom, CEO Robert Wallace, his wife Deborah Gaw, and attorney Robert Beasley, met and agreed to negotiate a sale. But after that, Odom says things went sideways.
According to the civil complaint, Beasley