Irwin Simon, founder and former CEO of the Hain Celestial Group...

Irwin Simon, founder and former CEO of the Hain Celestial Group based in Lake Success, has been named chairman of Canadian cannabis company Aphria Inc. Credit: Uli Seit

Canadian cannabis company Aphria Inc. has named Irwin D. Simon, the founder of Lake Success-based Hain Celestial Group Inc., as its chairman.

The move comes as Aphria, based in Leamington, Ontario, faces a takeover bid from another cannabis company, Green Growth Brands Inc. based in Columbus, Ohio.

The appointment of Simon, who stepped down as chief executive of Hain Celestial in November but continues as nonexecutive chairman, was announced Dec. 27.

He served as CEO, president and chairman of Hain Celestial, an organic and natural foods company, since its founding in 1993.

"Irwin Simon is a dynamic leader and entrepreneur who understands the complexities and responsibilities of building a successful and competitive company," Vic Neufeld, CEO of Aphria, said in a statement. "Irwin's decades of operational and strategic experience in health and wellness and consumer packaged goods will be very valuable."

Hain Celestial was Long Island's fourth largest publicly traded company based on 2017 revenue of $2.9 billion.

"I look forward to working with Aphria's management team as I believe there are several similarities to their business and the growth I experienced within the organic and natural products industry," said Simon, who also serves on the board of Barnes & Noble Inc., a publicly traded book retailer based in Manhattan.

Shares of Aphria rose 5.6 percent Wednesday to close at $6.01 on the New York Stock Exchange.

The legal cannabis market in the United States is projected to grow about 14.7 percent a year to $25 billion by 2025, according to New Frontier Data, a Washington, D.C.-based cannabis research firm.

It is growing internationally as well: Arcview Market Research and its research partner BDS Analytics project worldwide spending on legal cannabis will hit $57 billion by 2027. Recreational marijuana sales are expected to account for 67 percent of the spending, and the medical marijuana sales are expected to take up the remaining 33 percent.

Recreational marijuana is legal in Canada.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in a December speech before the New York City Bar Association in Manhattan called for legalizing "the adult use of recreational marijuana once and for all" in the state in 2019. Doing so would put New York in line with 10 other states and position to potentially generate hundreds of millions in tax revenue, he said. The legislative session is set to begin Jan. 9.

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