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Shryne Group Adds Seth Rogen-Backed Cannabis Company Top Lawyer

Nov. 10, 2021, 9:04 PM

Shryne Group Inc., a cannabis company that sells products in several U.S. states under the Stiiizy brand name, has picked up a new chief legal officer in Cary Berger.

Berger is a former corporate partner at Irell & Manella who went on to serve as deputy general counsel and corporate compliance officer for Broadcom Inc. Berger went on to be general counsel for online dating company eHarmony Inc. and deputy chief counsel for the Walt Disney Co.

He most recently worked for Houseplant, a cannabis brand started in 2019 by actor and filmmaker Seth Rogen and his friend and comedy partner Evan Goldberg.

“Throughout my career I have worked with private and public companies at the brink of massive growth,” Berger said in a statement announcing his hire. “That’s certainly the opportunity I see for Shryne.”

The legal weed industry has become an increasingly popular field for U.S. lawyers and law firms, which must navigate shifting regulations and potential ethical obstacles in advising corporate cannabis clients.

Shryne, which has roughly 2,500 employees and owns 20 retail locations throughout California, also sells its products in Arizona, Michigan and Nevada. The company claims that its flagship Stiiizy brand is the top selling vape brand in the U.S. and third-largest cannabis brand in the country.

Berger’s hire comes more than a month after Shryne appointed Jonathan Avidor—a former associate at Sullivan & Cromwell in New York and Goodwin Procter in Silicon Valley—to be its CEO. Avidor’s ascension came as Shryne parted ways with its former top executive, Brian Mitchell, who was charged in an insurance fraud scheme stemming from his time at another company.

Berger will lead the legal function for the Los Angeles-based company, Shryne spokeswoman Marisa Ochoa said. John Malone, a former Arent Fox associate who served as outside counsel to Shryne before he was hired as the company’s general counsel two years ago, will now report to Berger, she said.

After two years at eHarmony, Berger became general counsel in 2013 for Maker Studios Inc., an online video content maker that Disney acquired the following year. Berger left Disney in 2016 and joined the Artisanal Brewers Collective LLC, a Los Angeles-based restaurant group focused on brewpubs for which he was a co-founder, general counsel and chief administrative officer.

Houseplant, founded in Canada, hired Berger in 2019 as chief administrative officer and general counsel to handle legal, finance and government affairs matters. The company began selling its products in the U.S. this year. Rogen has partnered with other marijuana advocates to pressure U.S. legislators to legalize the drug nationally.

Avidor, Shryne’s new CEO, remains a name partner at the startup-focused law firm Masur Griffitts Avidor, which has offices in New York and Los Angeles. He’s also a co-founder of World Trade Ventures Ltd., where he was a general partner in the New York-based venture capital firm’s first fund.

“Jon still advises and holds an interest in both businesses but is not involved in the day-to-day,” Shryne spokesman Christian Averill told Bloomberg Law. Avidor’s primary focus is being Shryne’s CEO, he said.

Avidor joined the company as its executive chairman in 2019 after spearheading the merger that led to its creation, Averill said. Avidor then served as Shryne’s president and interim CFO before he was promoted last month to CEO.

The company said in a Sept. 21 statement that Mitchell, the CEO Avidor replaced, stepped down for “personal reasons unrelated to Shryne.” The company also announced at that time its promotion of chief development officer Tak Sato to succeed Avidor as president of Shryne upon his elevation to CEO.

Sato, a former associate at Latham & Watkins and Morrison & Foerster, initially joined Shryne in late 2019 after serving as vice president of acquisitions and licensing at MedMen Enterprises Inc., a prominent cannabis retailer that has fallen on tough financial times in recent years.

As for Berger’s hire, Avidor said in a statement that “Cary is that rare person who understands both the intricacies of cannabis law and more traditional corporate law and governance.” He added that Berger’s “experience and leadership will be crucial.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Brian Baxter in New York at bbaxter@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Chris Opfer at copfer@bloomberglaw.com;
John Hughes in Washington at jhughes@bloombergindustry.com