Barry Lambert exits Countplus to be Ecofibre chairman
Barry Lambert has backed medicinal cannabis which his family has used to treat his granddaughter, Katelyn. James Brickwood
Countplus founder Barry Lambert will step down as chairman of the listed accounting and wealth management firm to become the chairman of hemp company Ecofibre.
Mr Lambert said he wanted to focus upon his campaign to legalise medicinal cannabis in Australia.
"Why am I stepping down at Countplus? Well I've obviously been there from the beginning. I've been there more than 10 years and that's long enough for anybody.
"I've also been invited to go onto the board of the cannabis company Ecofibre and that's the Australian company that primarily operates in Kentucky in the US," Mr Lambert said.
"Australian laws are uncommercial, you might say. It's just uneconomic here to produce a low-cost (medical cannabis) product. We can do that in Kentucky. Last year we grew 500 acres (202 hectares) in open fields. We grow it like wheat you might say."
Ecofibre, which grows hemp for medical and other purposes, is planning a 2018 Australian sharemarket listing, he said.
His battle to legalise medicinal cannabis in Australia is a personal one, as Mr Lambert's granddaughter Katelyn suffers from a rare condition known as Dravet Syndrome which leads to severe epilepsy and permanent brain damage from the seizures.
"There are kids out there, including our granddaughter, where traditional pharma medicines don't work or have severe side-effects, whereas the hemp extract ... works beautifully," he said.
Federal and state governments plan to legalise the sale of cannabis for approved medicinal use and several medicinal cannabis firms have listed on the ASX.
But it still remains virtually impossible for sufferers to buy it legally as states have yet to define which diseases the cannabis can legally be used to treat.
Mr Lambert built the accounting and financial planning business Count Financial which he sold to the Commonwealth Bank of Australia for $373 million in 2011. The sale propelled him into the BRW Rich List and he is now ranked 167th with an estimated wealth of $389 million.
Mr Lambert will be replaced as chairman by Ray Kellerman and will remain as a director of Countplus in the short term.
Mr Kellerman is a director at Goodman Funds Management Australia, Foundation Life New Zealand and Ryder Capital and is also the owner of advisory firm Quentin Ayers.
"Ray is an experienced chairman and board director, and he brings extensive knowledge of the regulatory requirements of listed companies and financial markets," Mr Lambert said.
Countplus' latest half-year results were mixed. In the past year, Countplus shares have gained 14 per cent compared to a 13 per cent rise in the benchmark S&P/ASX200 Index. http://www.afr.com/business/accounting/barry-lambert-exits-countplus-to-be-ecofibre-chairman-20170426-gvtdcg