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The Pot Rally Just Minted 3 New Billionaires

September 19, 2018

The first private equity firm focused exclusively on the cannabis industry has spawned three billionaires.

Brendan Kennedy, Michael Blue and Christian Groh founded Seattle-based Privateer Holdings Inc. in May 2010 and the firm later invested in Canadian pot firm Tilray Inc., whose market value topped $21 billion Wednesday after surging more than 1,200 percent in the past two months.

The trio effectively owned about 45 percent of Privateer’s holdings in Tilray as of March 31, according to the cannabis company’s prospectus. Privateer’s stake in Tilray was valued at $7.9 billion as of 12:15 p.m. in New York, giving each founder a net worth of at least $2.6 billion, assuming they hold equal stakes. Billionaire Peter Thiel is among Privateer’s backers.

If the gains don’t go up in smoke — Tilray had just $20 million in revenue last year and short seller Citron Research called the stock’s surge “beyond comprehension” — they would rank among private equity’s wealthiest players. They’re already richer, at least on paper, than such industry luminaries as Ares Management LP’s Tony Ressler and Blackstone Group LP’s Jon Gray, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Kennedy, Blue and Groh have known one another for years. Kennedy, 46, and Blue are graduates of Yale School of Management’s MBA program. Kennedy and Groh had worked together at SVB Analytics, an affiliate of Silicon Valley Bank.

Privateer declined to comment on the founders’ personal finances.