Wires

UPDATE 3-Canopy Growth co-CEO Bruce Linton says he was fired

Debroop Roy

(Adds details on Canopy results, Constellation comment, analysts' quotes)

July 3 (Reuters) - Canopy Growth Corp founder and co-Chief Executive Officer Bruce Linton said he was fired, a surprise move that comes just a week after its largest shareholder expressed disappointment over the company's loss-making streak.

The world's largest weed producer announced earlier in the day that Linton was stepping down, leaving Mark Zekulin in charge of the company, sending its shares down 4%.

"I think stepping down might not be the right phrase," Linton said in an interview with CNBC https://www.cnbc.com/2019/07/03/canopy-growth-co-ceo-to-step-down.html?ttsource= t w i t t e r % 7 C m a i n . "I was terminated."

Canopy Growth reported a net loss of about C$323 million for the fourth quarter, attributing it to increased investments in expanding the business.

A week later, Constellation Brands, which owns nearly 56% stake in Canopy and has four of its six board seats, said it was not happy with the Canadian company's year-end results.

"We are working with Canopy almost on a daily basis to ensure that we are all focused on the right things," CEO Bill Newlands had said on Constellation's post-earnings call with analysts.

On Wednesday, the brewer said it fully supported the decision made by Canopy Growth's board to appoint Zekulin as the company's sole CEO.

"We believe there may have been a disconnect between the near-term execution sought by Constellation at this point and Linton's focus on investing for the longer term, often at the expense of short-term performance," RBC analyst Douglas Miehm said.

Linton played a major role in taking the company public in 2014 and bolstered its operations with acquisitions worth more than C$5 billion.

Under Linton, Canopy Growth also raised over C$6 billion since its founding in 2013, with Corona beer maker Constellation agreeing to invest more than $4 billion in the company - the biggest such investment in the cannabis industry.

Brokerage Cowen and Co analyst Vivien Azer said she saw the change as "constructive" and that she does not expect Zekulin's transition to sole CEO to be disruptive.

Linton did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment. Canopy Growth was also not immediately available to provide more details on Linton's departure.

Toronto-listed shares of Canopy have grown 11-fold since its market listing, adding more than C$16 billion in market value during the period.

Rade Kovacevic, who currently leads the company's Canadian operations and recreational strategy, will take over the role of president from Zekulin.

The company named John Bell, Canopy's lead director of 5 years, as chairman, a decision that it said would be reviewed at the board's annual meeting in September.

Earlier this year, Canopy also replaced long-term Chief Financial Officer Tim Saunders with a former Constellation executive. (Reporting by Debroop Roy in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D'Silva and Sweta Singh)