Pornhub has been in acquisition talks with an investor group led by a Canadian cannabis entrepreneur

  • Pornhub has been in talks to sell to an investor group led by Chuck Rifici, a former official of Canada’s Liberal Party, sources say.
  • It’s unclear if Rifici has raised money for the deal or if other investors are involved.
  • Lawmakers in Canada are going after Pornhub after recent controversies.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Pornhub has been in acquisition talks with an investor group led by a Canadian cannabis entrepreneur and former Liberal Party official, according to two knowledgeable sources.

Chuck Rifici, a since-ousted cofounder of Canadian cannabis giant Canopy Growth and the former CFO of the Liberal Party of Canada, has in recent weeks discussed purchasing assets including Pornhub with owner MindGeek, according to the sources.

The price, other potential investors, or whether Rifici has raised money to do a deal, remain unclear. According to a Financial Times report, MindGeek brought in more than $460 million in revenue in 2018. 

“I’m always looking at different deals and my team at [investment firm] Bruinen is exploring a number of opportunities, but until there is something to announce progress on, I have no further comment,” Rifici said in an email to Insider.

MindGeek declined to comment. Emails to three top executives were not returned.

Montreal-based Pornhub is facing lawsuits from sex trafficking survivors and scrutiny from Canadian and US lawmakers for allegedly failing to police child pornography, sexual assault content, and videos posted without the consent of those depicted on its platform.

In March, a bipartisan group of 70 Canadian lawmakers called for a criminal investigation.

The legal and regulatory fallout was first sparked by a December New York Times column by Nicholas Kristof that prompted major credit card companies to cut ties with Pornhub.

The company denied that it allowed child pornography on its platform but also made sweeping changes, permitting only verified users to upload content and promising to improve content moderation.

Pornhub said in a February statement: “Pornhub is working to implement changes in the following areas: content standards, content uploading and review processes, content removal and user exclusion, partnerships, relationships with law enforcement and NGOs, and wellness and harm reduction.”

The legal scrutiny has made MindGeek an acquisition target in recent months, according to the sources. MindGeek owns other porn sites including RedTube and YouPorn. Its current ownership structure is difficult to discern — commonplace in the labyrinthine world of internet pornography.

Conservative Member of Parliament Arnold Viersen told Insider that the pressure on Pornhub in Canada is unlikely to let up even if the company changes hands. “I’m skeptical of a culture change,” Viersen said.

Rifici has a long and tumultuous history in the Canadian cannabis industry, another heavily regulated sector.

Rifici, along with Bruce Linton, founded Tweed Cannabis — which later became the NYSE-listed Canopy Growth — before he was ousted by the board in 2014. Rifici sued Canopy Growth for wrongful dismissal and the company countersued, though both suits have since been dismissed.

In 2017, Rifici sued three Members of Parliament from Canada’s Conservative Party for defamation over what he said were allegations the MPs made that Rifici had profited from insider trading after Canopy Growth’s stock skyrocketed.

Rifici then founded Nesta Holding Co., a firm that invests in the cannabis industry, and founded and served as the CEO then chairman of Auxly Cannabis Group before resigning in 2020. He sits on the board of vaporizer company Feather as well as psychedelic medicine company Novamind and serves as the executive chairman of Bruinen Investments, per his LinkedIn page. 

MindGeek has been the subject of other news coverage lately. Insider previously reported that there was no evidence to support the existence of some Pornhub executives that had been quoted in news articles. And last month, MindGeek CEO Feras Antoon’s $20 million Montreal mansion went up in flames in a suspected arson attack.

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