Ben Ward REALLY Doesn’t Like Us
Wayland Group (formerly Maricann) CEO Ben Ward has made it a habit of tweeting accusations of false and illegal activities about people in the media who have been criticizing his company, deleting those tweets and moving on to business as usual. This has happened enough times now that it’s time to open up the can of worms and expose what went on behind the scenes.
I would like to think back and forth Twitter wars wouldn’t be a hot topic people enjoy reading about, but I would be wrong in making that assumption. Financial media has been plagued for years with dull content, often because the stock market world is tight knit and people are afraid to make enemies.
Many of Wayland’s investors have called for Ward’s head over the past few months, but, he is unlikely to step down any time soon.
So strap in, grab a cold beverage and some popcorn because this one is a real doozy.
The Twitter war began with the announcement of a critical piece against Ward and The Wayland Group that we released on November 28th, 2018. Ward is most likely furious with a previous piece we wrote. But despite Ward hating it, Google really likes it.
The article is also #3 for the keyword ‘Ben Ward’.
Here is how Ward has responded, to our critical coverage (confusing us with Equity Guru, more on that later).
According to our analytics, the piece did relatively well. We have found that since we began this site in December, 2017 that honest and indept critical pieces are well received from an engagement and analytical standpoint. This type of content is fresh in a sea of noise about company x expanding x amount of grow space.
Companies like Namaste Technologies at one point were releasing 3-4 press releases a week, most of them completely meaningless like trading stock with another company or buying web domains. Anything to stay fresh and relevant in the eyes of investors who are most likely watching a whole pile of cannabis companies, it’s easy to be forgotten.
Whether it’s Emerald Health, TGOD, Namaste Technologies, MedMen or Wayland, to name a few, when we have spoken about them in a critical way and shone light onto what their paid promo likes to keep hidden, our readers have responded.
The last Wayland piece follows suit with this trend.
With an average time on page for the Ward article was 7:02 with 3,686 reads, which translates to 25,875 minutes, or 431 hours, or 18 days.
The piece also reached 14,713 people on Facebook with 228 comments and 3,513 post clicks, a click-thru-rate (CTR) of 24%. We were very happy with the results, in marketing, a 5% CTR is a home run.
So how did this all start?
Chapter 1: Taylor Meets Maricann 01/11/18
I signed up to volunteer at Lift Vancouver 2018, this was my opportunity to meet new people and hopefully get some interviews from cannabis companies for interesting and original content for the site. I wasn’t into asking the same boring questions and instead wanted to focus on more interesting things than what most financial media ask like ‘tell me about your company’ and ‘what does this year look like for_____’.
I engaged in a conversation in the back of the speaker hall with a woman who formerly worked for Lift, after I explained to her that I was interested in interviewing companies for this website she gifted me a VIP pass that would allow me full access to the event. At the event I made some great contacts in the industry, on the main floor and at some chic private parties.
One of the connections I made was an enthusiastic sales rep at Maricann (who no longer works there). I will leave his name out of this as I feel he is the only employee of Maricann I have come in contact with that hasn’t made a transgression.
I had read quite a bit about Maricann and at the time the stock was one of the hottest topics in the cannabis space, deemed as one of the most undervalued companies in the space. I was eager to try and get interviews with every company I met, and followed up with the contact the sales rep gave to me.
I scheduled a call with Maricann’s head of IR, Graham Farrell for 9 AM EST Monday morning. During the call Farrell agreed to the interview which would be posted on the website, at the time Maricann wasn’t doing much in the way of social media or press coverage and relied heavily on the Maricann investor Facebook group, which was created by a group of enthusiastic Maricann investors, most from that group abandoned ship after the insider selling scandal Maricann engaged in, but more on that later.
Chapter 2: The High Energy/Maricann Interview That Went Sideways 02/01/18
On January 24th I sent my interview questions to Farrell to look over, within 48 hours he had sent 8 responses to my 8 questions and I went ahead and structured the piece around his answers. I had nothing but positive things to say about the company at this point and I was very happy with how the piece turned out. I released it at 9 AM EST and immediately the piece had eyes, I kept an eye on my analytics for a few minutes and had 50-60 people reading it at a time within moments of posting it in several investor groups.
I went to hop in the shower, came back 20 minutes later and saw I had 6 missed calls and a wall of texts from Farrell and other Maricann investors, all of them said the same thing:
“TAKE THIS DOWN IMMEDIATELY!”
Chapter 3: Ben’s First Deleted Tweet 11/28/18
The night before releasing the Ward piece I spoke about in the intro I went into a few of the cannabis investor Facebook groups to warn that a Wayland/Ben Ward piece would be dropping the following morning, much like a product launch, announcing the publication of something works in favour of creating some anticipation and expectation of the piece.
I had no demands whatsoever from the company and was not interested in benefiting in any kind of monetary way, I only wanted the research I did to be seen by more people as it had been my personal experience that the company has had a long track record of being dishonest. I wont even go into the Wayland/McKesson ‘deal’ and the multiple retracted press releases Wayland/Maricann has had, that is for another piece and we do not have enough time to get into it here.
One of the investor groups I put the post in was The Wayland group itself, word must have made its way to Ward by someone in the group as Ward and I have never spoken before. It was listed on my profile that I once worked for Equity Guru, which is true. Chris and I did work together in the past, and we remain close friends, however, I do not write for Equity Guru anymore and haven’t since August of last year.
Because of Ward’s assumption that this would be written by Equity Guru, he made a critical mistake of falsely engaging with Chris Parry and Equity Guru. That blunder most likely hasn’t seen its downside just yet as Chris has decided to spend the next 6 months covering Wayland.
Best of luck to Wayland on that one.
Chapter Four: Ben Deletes Another Tweet 01/16/19
Since November of last year things went quiet. We haven’t written about Wayland or Ward, the stock has continued to bleed and we thought they were dead in the water anyways, but, it Ward came out earlier this week to rehash the issue.
After Ward posted the tweet he followed it up with this 12 hours later:
But again, this issue has nothing to do with Equity Guru.
Equity Guru responded the following day with:
Chapter 5: Wayland Investors Don’t Want Any Of This
In closing, Wayland’s investors would like Ward to not focus on this sort of thing. Every company gets criticized, and 99% of them take it on the chin as part of the game.
Very rarely will a CEO of a major company come out on Twitter and start slinging mud, but Ward seems to be a bit trigger happy and emotional when it comes to this sort of thing, so I expect it will continue to happen.
Anytime Ward does this, the most common response from investors is: stop this and focus on growing the company.
This would be a good strategy, but it’s something Ward has failed to do time and time again. One could legitimately ski down Wayland’s chart right now, and the hot stock of January 2018 is showing no signs of life.
Disclaimer: Why We Do Pieces Like This
We are very critical of companies on this site.
Why? Because most companies have huge promotion budgets to deploy which leaves a Google search full of positive accolades from paid promoters that newer retail investors may not be able to spot, making their research process a headache. Our mission is to bring attention to the other side of the story, the one that doesn’t get promoted.
But things are changing, our highest traffic pieces are ones like these that call out companies for their poor behaviour, our friends at Equity Guru and The Deep Dive have also gained serious of traction with a similar mindset.
We called out The Green Organic Dutchman (TGOD) earlier this year to the tune of 12,000+ organic clicks from Facebook, ie no marketing budget or ad spend.
On Monday we wrote about the recent Bridgemark fiasco which put 11 companies in direct contact with a heap of sketchy consultants and firms. One of the companies that came up in the Bridgemark investigation done by the BCSC was Abbatis (ATT).
When we wrote about Sean Dollinger and Namaste being, well just plain weird the article went to the #1 spot on Google for the keyword ‘Sean Dollinger’ for 8 weeks. This is also not the first time we have been critical of Maricann.
Not only have we been critical about Namaste, there are a number of cannabis companies we have tossed under the bus for being sketchy.
This proved to us that honest journalism does have a place in the market, we are not afraid to make enemy’s here, in fact we have made a few of them along the way and plan to make even more in the future.