A British scientist dubbed ‘Dr Pot’ and his business partner were last night celebrating a £94million windfall after selling their cannabis firm for £5.3billion.
Dr Geoffrey Guy founded Cambridge-based GW Pharmaceuticals in 1998, but is selling the company to Irish rival Jazz Pharmaceuticals.
His holding will net him a payout of £65.9million, with the company’s long-serving chief executive Justin Gover expected to get £28.6million.
GW Pharmaceuticals secured a Home Office licence to grow cannabis in England and has pioneered marijuana treatments.
Its first drug, mouth spray Sativex, was the first cannabis-based medicine to be approved by any country when it secured backing in the UK for treatment of multiple sclerosis (MS) sufferers.
GW then received approval in the US for a second drug, called Epidyolex, which combats seizures suffered by people with epilepsy.
Approval in Europe followed in 2019, with both Sativex and Epidyolex becoming the first cannabis-based drugs to become available on the NHS.
Last year GW reported annual sales of £385million.
Other directors of the company include former Cabinet minister Lord Waldegrave, who served under Margaret Thatcher and John Major and is chairman of Coutts, the Queen’s bank.
Mr Gover said yesterday: “Over the last two decades, GW has built an unparalleled global leadership position in cannabinoid science.
“We believe that Jazz is an ideal growth partner that is committed to supporting our commercial efforts, as well as ongoing clinical and research programs.
Together, we will have an opportunity to reach and impact more patients.”
Dr Guy, who serves as GW’s chairman, received a pay package worth £5.8million including shares in 2019.
He has used his cannabis-based fortune to amass a property portfolio, including Axnoller Farm, which has hosted celebrity weddings, and Chedington Court, a Jacobean-style grade II-listed house – both in Dorset.
Cannabis-based medicines were legalised in 2018 by former home secretary Sajid Javid following a campaign by parents of children with severe epilepsies such as Dravet syndrome.
They argued that drugs such as Epidyolex could help reduce the occurrence of life-threatening seizures.
Epidyolex contains cannabidiol, a compound found in cannabis plants also known as CBD. Sativex contains both CBD and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive chemical that gets users high.
GW carries out research and development in Cambridge and its cannabis is refined in sites across south England.
The company employs more than 1,000 people.