Exclusive Interview with NBA All-Star and Webber Wellness Founder Chris Webber and JW Asset Management Founder and Chief Investment Officer Jason Wild
Chris Webber, an NBA All-Star and founder of Webber Wellness, and Jason Wild, Founder and Chief Investment Officer of JW Asset Management, have teamed up to launch a $100 million cannabis impact fund. They spoke with New Cannabis Ventures about their collaboration and how the new impact fund will support cannabis entrepreneurs of color. The audio of the entire conversation is available at the end of this written summary.
Webber and Wild are no strangers to the cannabis space. Fifteen years of playing professional basketball took a toll on Webber’s body, and he became interested in the wellness benefits of cannabis. He founded Webber Wellness and has built substantial relationships in the cannabis space.
Wild is a pharmacist by training, and he started a pharmaceutical hedge fund back in 1998. That fund grew from $80,000 to just under $2 billion in assets under management today. Eventually, a substantial portion of that fund was pivoted to focus on cannabis. Initially, its cannabis investments were exclusively in Canada, but now, it has investments in the U.S. Wild serves as the Chairman of multi-state operator TerrAscend, which has a footprint in states like Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Approximately 85 percent of the fund’s assets under management are in the cannabis space, according to Wild.
A friend of Webber’s from the University of Michigan connected him with Wild. Initially, Webber was interested in talking with Wild about his experience, but it soon became clear that their interests and passions aligned, leading to the new impact fund.
The team just completed the offering document and is starting the process of speaking with investors. Wild expects to have a substantial amount of the money raised within the next few months. The impact fund already has a strong pipeline of companies, and the team is preparing to start deploying money over the next six to eight weeks.
The impact fund will target companies that will be sustainable and profitable over time. Plant-touching businesses will be a major focus for the fund, but the team sees potential across the entire supply chain. Wild and Webber will take an entrepreneurial approach, evaluating anything that could be a fit.
Ultimately, the fund wants to support companies that will be successful. This success will allow Wild and Webber to continue their work and potentially launch an even bigger fund in the future.
To help drive that success, the impact fund will do more than just provide capital. Webber and Wild will leverage their experience and relationships in the industry to provide the fund’s companies with business resources and backend support. Webber is looking to provide support to local municipalities and working with community activists to help support social equity applicants.
Over his years investing in cannabis, Wild has made a number of mistakes and learned from them. He will be able to pass that knowledge on to the fund’s companies.
In addition to Webber and Wild’s experience, a number of other companies have reached out to express their interest in lending support. The fund may be able to offer centralized resources to its companies. For example, the fund could offer its companies insurance coverage under the same carrier, or it could provide avenues to employee training or HR services.
Wild expects the companies in this fund to have returns similar to his existing fund. When considering investments and talking to investors, both Webber and Wild emphasize that this impact fund is not about charity. It is about offering people of color access to opportunities and a fair playing field.
Right now, the team is focused on getting this impact fund up and running. But, Wild envisions launching a second, possibly bigger fund, in the next year or two. He and Webber are hopeful that the impact fund’s model could be taken up in other parts of the industry.
This impact fund seeks to support entrepreneurs of color, but there remains a lot of work to be done in terms of social equity and diversity in the cannabis industry. Webber sees access as the first step to addressing the harm done to individuals and communities of color by the laws that disproportionately target them.
Cannabis companies operating in the space today can recognize that there is a problem and be open to making changes to address that problem. Federal legalization, whenever it happens, can also play a significant role in addressing social equity in the industry.
From a business perspective, federal legalization could spark positive changes in the way the industry is taxed. But, more importantly, Webber and Wild want federal law to address the number of people who are still being imprisoned for cannabis use. A step forward, like expungement of records, could help more people of color enter the cannabis space and have the same opportunities as the people profiting from the industry today.
Cannabis is a difficult business for any entrepreneur. The industry is changing so quickly and competition is fierce. Webber and Wild want to give entrepreneurs of color the same opportunity to enter and grow in this space. Access is the first step, and the pair is excited to be a part of the solution.
Mayce Edward Christopher Webber III (born March 1, 1973) is an American former professional basketball player. He is a 5-time NBA All-Star, a 5-time All-NBA Team member, a former NBA Rookie of the Year, and a former number one overall NBA draftee for the Golden State Warriors. He later played for teams including the Washington Bullets, Sacramento Kings, Philadelphia 76ers, and Detroit Pistons.
As a collegiate athlete, he was a first-team All-American and led the Michigan Wolverines‘ 1991 incoming freshman class known as the Fab Five that reached the 1992 and 1993NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Championship games as freshmen and sophomores. However, Webber was indicted by a federal grand jury and stripped of his All-American honors by the NCAA as a result of his direct involvement in the Ed Martin scandal. He is also a former National High School Basketball Player of the Year who led his high school Detroit Country Day to three Michigan State High School Basketball Championships. He is now an on-air commentary for NBA games, in addition to a university professor teaching at schools including Wake Forest University and Morehouse College.
- 5 time All-Star
- 5 time All-NBA – 2001 first team, 1999, 2002, & 2003 second team, 2000 third team
- NBA Rookie of the Year (1994)
- NBA All-Rookie First Team (1994)
- 1990–1991 National High School player of the year
- Jerseys: #44 Detroit Country Day School, #4 Sacramento Kings
- 1999 NBA rebounding champ (13.0 rpg)
Former NBA Player Chris Webber Is Partnering With Cashmere Agency To Tell Diverse Stories—Starting With The Fab Five
Five-time NBA all-star Chris Webber, once a champion on the basketball court, is now a champion of diverse storytelling. Webber’s production company, Webber-Gilbert Productions, has produced over 30 films to date including the Emmy nominated documentary, Charm City, which takes an intimate look at the city of Baltimore through the lens of community leaders, politicians and citizens as they fight to make the city a better place for its residents.
The latest project to come out of the production company is a limited series, Fab Five, based on his forthcoming autobiography, By God’s Grace, in partnership with Cashmere Originals, the content studio attached to the award-winning Cashmere Agency.
Fab Five, which doesn’t yet have a premiere date, will highlight Webber’s formative years as a University of Michigan basketball player, including being part of the Fab Five, the 1991 recruiting class regarded as one of the greatest of all time. Cashmere and Webber-Gilbert Production will continue to produce original content beyond this project, with a goal of amplifying the stories of underrepresented athletes and entertainers.
For(bes) The Culture spoke with Webber and Russell Redeaux, head of development at Cashmere Originals, to discuss how they’re prioritizing diverse storytelling.
For(bes) The Culture: What can viewers expect from this project?
Russell Redeaux: From the Cashmere Originals perspective, we’re definitely very excited to be working with Chris. This story is just generationally defining. We were given an opportunity to work together and build this out in a way that is very exciting for us. What you can expect is honest storytelling.
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Chris Webber: It’s about the Fab Five, based on my autobiography and we expect to accomplish a goal and the goal is to be truth-tellers. it’s not just a narrative, because I think that for [people] to understand us, [they] have to understand where we come from and those people that made us. Hopefully we can show how our parents, family and village inspired us and prepared us. Hopefully we can show you how Detroit healed us, how it made us and these different situations.
For(bes) The Culture: How did this partnership come about?
Redeaux: I was introduced to Chris through one of his business partners and we had a chance to really just share some time and some great conversation. While getting to know each other, we really discovered that there was a similar passion to tell diverse and multicultural stories. Once we had that sort of mutual alignment, we really saw a bigger vision here and mapped out a plan that included obviously telling Chris’ story and the story of the Fab Five but also opening the door to give the power back to our communities and our storytellers. Bringing opportunities to tell these diverse, inclusive stories that are backed by the sentiment and focus of what Chris and I are building between our joint venture.
Webber: Cashmere is known for their diversity and being an athlete from Detroit, I pride myself in being a Black man in America. Diversity is a strength, all diversity, and Cashmere has honored that. It was one thing personally to put my trust in them to partner and tell this story, which you know, means so much to me. They’re helping to empower me to tell my story, and that’s what we want to do to diverse storytellers.
For(bes) The Culture: Chris, why is it important for you to bring your autobiography to life by way of television? It is sure to continue inspiring many people.
Webber: I hope it does. There’s so many people that inspired me, that hopefully I can give it back. It’s a story of perseverance, trust, faith, pain, success and joy. Hopefully it just really shows how grateful and thankful I am, and that you can have some fun along the way with some ups and downs. Hopefully it inspires as well.
For(bes) The Culture: What are some future projects that this collaboration will bring?
Redeaux: I think that we are actively letting people know that we’re here. Our criteria for the types of projects that we want to bring in are that they have to be unfiltered and honest. We want them to be culturally defining narratives that are told by the people who lived it.
For(bes) The Culture: How do you plan to continue elevating Black creatives with this partnership whether it’s in front of or behind the camera?
Redeaux: With us having the ability to bring great stories forward, our mission is to empower those directors, those writers, those producers and those creatives that may not have gotten those opportunities. We want to make sure our platform continues to empower diversity and great creatives from our community. That’s a focus of ours and that’s the goal in terms of bringing projects forward. We’re actively looking for those types of voices, so this is a call out. If you’re in that world, please come to us. We want to know what you’re doing and we want to give you an opportunity.
Webber: Diversity is a strength. Making sure that we’re inclusive, holding ourselves accountable, and I think most importantly, the more people we empower, the more people that are just going to take it and run with it, and it’s really awesome. The people who are unheard always take it to the next level, and so, that’s gonna be fun empowering people.
For(bes) The Culture: What legacy do you both want to leave behind with this collaborative effort?
Redeaux: People knowing we were honest and intentional with the stories we told and that we were able to tell our own stories and empower others to tell their own stories. The last thing would be to empower our community through the art of storytelling. Creating jobs, creating opportunities to serve under voiced communities, and really just uplifting everything that we do through the art of storytelling.
Webber: You want to have a legacy of hard work. You want to have the legacy of having high character in business. You want to have a legacy of making change. We’ve aligned with people with the same vision that work hard, that can get a lot done. I hope our legacy is giving opportunities to those that have great stories.