Founders win $140 million in arbitration fight over Colorado marijuana company

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A nearly five-year legal battle over ownership of Colorado marijuana retail chain Native Roots has almost come to a close, with two of the owners winning a $140 million judgment against their partner for breach of contract.

But the matter isn’t settled just yet, with the partner seeking to overturn the ruling and the two owners asking a judge in February to reaffirm the award in their favor.

According to arbitration records, the ownership dispute began in 2017, with founders Josh Ginsberg and Rhett Jordan on one side and owner/investor Peter Knobel and his company, Brightstar, on the other.

The sides were forced into arbitration because of a dispute over who controlled the fate of Native Roots.

Knobel tried to sell Native Roots and attempted to take over Ginsberg and Jordan’s ownership portions of the company in order to complete a sale, according to records.

Knobel even tried to sign a “secret letter of intent” with Privateer Holdings – the parent company of Leafly, Marley Natural and Tilray – without informing Ginsberg and Jordan, the records show.

Ginsberg and Jordan, however, refused to sell and were able to force Knobel into arbitration.

The move paid off when the arbitrator ruled against Knobel in August and awarded Ginsberg and Jordan $100 million plus interest.

The ruling brings the total award to roughly $140 million, according to a news release from Venable, a California law firm that represented Ginsberg and Jordan.

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Knobel and Brightstar are asking a Denver district court to vacate the $140 million award, and attorneys for Ginsberg and Jordan filed a request on Feb. 18 for the court to confirm the award, according to the release.

The initial award has not been paid and is accruing $30,000 a day in interest, the release notes.

John Schroyer can be reached at