Chris Walsh stepping down as MJBiz CEO

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Image of Chris Walsh

Chris Walsh, who has been with MJBiz since its inception in 2011, presents his final annual predictions for the cannabis industry at MJBizCon 2022. (Photo by Ben Zimmerman, Las Vegas Event Photography)

MJBiz CEO Chris Walsh, the company’s founding editor and a leading authority on the marijuana industry, is leaving the pioneering cannabis publishing and trade show business in January.

His departure – following more than a decade with the company – comes nearly a year after Denver-based MJBiz was acquired by Emerald X for $120 million in cash plus potential earnouts.

Emerald X is a wholly owned subsidiary of Emerald Holding, a New York-based business-to-business event and media company.

“This is the natural evolution of companies, industries and my career,” Walsh said. “Things change. MJBiz is in a great place.

“We built a company that has helped many businesses and individuals in the industry. We navigated through a very difficult time through the pandemic and were acquired.”

Walsh, who became the company’s CEO in 2020, said he plans to take time off before considering his next move.

“There are a lot of things brewing within the industry and outside of it,” he said. “I’ve got some potential paths forward.”

Pam Moore, now MJBiz’s chief content strategy officer, and Jess Tyler, similarly promoted to chief revenue and experience officer, will continue in their leadership roles at the company.

Walsh, a veteran business journalist with an MBA from Regis University in Denver, joined MJBiz in 2011 as its founding editor.

His job: Develop the editorial philosophy and strategy for a company that would focus on the business side of the emerging marijuana industry.

Over the next decade, Walsh helped to spearhead the company’s efforts to galvanize and professionalize the nascent marijuana industry.

In addition to overseeing the launch of what was then the Marijuana Business Daily website, Walsh was responsible for creating the annual MJBiz Factbook and MJBizMagazine.

He also built the company’s conference content and editorial teams and played a key role in the creation and growth of MJBizCon, the cannabis industry’s oldest and largest trade show.

Walsh quickly became an expert on the marijuana industry, before the rollout of Colorado’s pioneering recreational market in January 2014.

“Moving from a daily metro newspaper to a ‘pot’ publication caused some head-scratching among many acquaintances – even though I was entering a  $1 billion-plus industry at the time,” Walsh wrote in a 2013 story, “The Growing Business of Marijuana,” for the Harvard Business Review.

“Soon enough, the industry will grow up and get buttoned-down. But for the professionals who can stomach the risks, the time to get in is now.”

The words proved prophetic. The 2022 MJBiz Factbook projects marijuana sales in state-legal markets this year will total $33 billion.

Over the past several years, the marijuana industry has seen several mainstream businesses enter the sector, including lawn and garden giant Scotts Miracle-Gro, alcohol beverage titan Constellation Brands and tobacco giant Altria Group.

Emerald X’s acquisition of MJBiz at the start of 2022 continued that trend.

“We are grateful for Chris’ leadership during this year of transition with Emerald and respect his legacy here,” said Karalynn Sprouse, an executive vice president for Emerald.

Referring to MJBiz senior vice presidents Tyler and Moore, Sprouse added: “I have absolute confidence in Jess, Pam and the rest of the MJBiz team to continue building a business as an essential, trusted resource for the cannabis industry.”