Media company-turned cannabis retailer Hightimes Holding Corp. will finally go public in 2021, according to CEO Peter Horvath.
"Well we're definitely going public this year, and I don't want to peg it to a specific time but in this industry 4/20 is a notable date ... so I think that's a target," Horvath told Cheddar on Thursday, adding that he can't actually commit to a formal target date for the company's public debut.
"We'll see where we end up," he said.
Horvath, who took over the CEO role in May 2020 from Overstock veteran Stormy Simon, said the listing would occur over-the-counter in the U.S. following the completion of a Regulation A+ crowdfunding equity offering. The company said it has raised $35 million from more than 30,000 shareholders so far. If the company manages an April 20 listing, it will miss a goal Executive Chairman Adam Levin set at the end of December for the company to debut in the first quarter of 2021. High Times has been trying since 2017 to list on the public markets. Expectations have tempered over the time down from a Nasdaq listing and eventually to the current mini-IPO plan on the OTC Markets.
The company's long-awaited debut hinges on its compliance with the Securities Exchange Commission, which requires up-to-date financial reports be filed and available to investors. High Times cannot close on the offering, according to Marijuana Business Daily, until it files and releases semi-annual financial statements for the end of 2019 and the first half of 2020, which Horvath said could come as soon as March.
"Our audits are progressing. Our books are — by closing our books from the prior year, that qualifies us to move ahead. And, that's imminent. We're a couple weeks away from getting our ducks in line," Horvath said.
High Times Magazine and the broader Hightimes Holding media company has been a fixture in cannabis culture since it kicked off its unabashed, legalization-focused coverage of cannabis in the early '70s. But its iconic role in cannabis history hasn't saved it from problems plaguing the media industry and growing pains in cannabis, and when the company releases its semi-annual financial statements, investors might not like what they see.
Horvath insists the company is in a much better position than it was in 2019 when it disclosed in its last semi-annual report that "recurring operating losses, net operating cash flow deficits, and an accumulated deficit" meant there was "substantial doubt" the company could even continue operating a year out from the filing.
Those reports also won't reflect many of the strides High Times has made into brick-and-mortar retail, a bold pivot the media company announced in January 2020. The following April, High Times made good on its plan by inking an $80 million deal to snap up licenses and dispensaries owned by Phoenix-based Harvest Health and Recreation. Not all of those locations are up and running, and the company lost leases on two of them in San Francisco, SFWeekly reported, due to failure to pay rent. But Horvath said that revenue from the three California shops and two "delivery depots" the company currently operates has been helpful.
"The sales from our largest dispensary out of the three are more than [High Times] did in the last few years, you know, as a magazine and events company," he said. "So, I think that's a pretty big pivot when all sudden, boom, you've got assets that are generating revenue."
Horvath said the second half of 2020 is when investors will start to see the results of the retail efforts, including "more assets on the balance sheet" and debt that "has been paid down to some degree."
He also believes his more than decades of retail experience can guide the company down a path to success, having held executive roles at DSW, American Eagle, and L Brands, the parent company of Victoria's Secret. His last role was as CEO of Green Growth Brands, a Schottenstein family-backed CBD consumer packaged goods company that folded amid the pandemic. Horvath said he plans to apply the same fundamentals of retail he has learned over his decades in the big retail to cannabis retail at High Times.
"We've been able to win over the teams, increase traffic to the stores, and dramatically increase the average dollar sale — and simply by ... taking all the things I learned in 37 years, especially working very closely with some of the most successful retailers in the world. We're finding out that yes the fundamentals of retail actually matter in cannabis," he explained.
High Times plans to open four additional retail stores by summer. Plus, through a licensing agreement with CSE-listed Red White & Bloom, Horvath said the company could have 30-40 High Times-branded dispensaries by the close of 2021.
Horvath also isn't immune from the optimism in the industry concerning the possibility of federal cannabis reform under President Joe Biden's administration and a Democrat-controlled Congress. He wouldn't specifically predict when federal cannabis prohibition might end in the U.S. but said he felt heartened by support among House Democrats for the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act and optimistic about passage of the Secure And Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act
"We're very optimistic, and I think the markets, by the way, are reflecting that optimism," he said.
Updated on February 25, 2021, at 5:00 p.m. ET with additional details.
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