Cirque du Soleil sells majority stake to U.S. private equity firm

Founder Guy Laliberté will maintain a stake in the Montreal-based company and continue to provide strategic and creative input

MONTREAL — Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberté says he is looking forward to other creative challenges as he sells his majority stake in the famed circus group to U.S. private equity firm TPG for an undisclosed price.

Laliberté told a news conference in Montreal this morning he has found a buyer to ensure the Cirque will continue to thrive.

He says the Cirque is still a profitable venture that sells 11 million tickets a year.

Laliberté will maintain a stake in the Montreal-based company and continue to provide strategic and creative input.

Chinese investment firm Fosun and Quebec pension fund manager the Caisse de depot will hold minority stakes.

Related: A hint of sanity in the Cirque sale

The buyers have agreed to terms that will ensure Montreal — home of about 1,400 employees — remains the Cirque’s international creative and management headquarters.

In a statement released before the news conference, Laliberté said the sale will be good for the Cirque.

“After 30 years building the Cirque du Soleil brand, we have now found the right partners in TPG, Fosun and the Caisse to take Cirque du Soleil forward to the next stage in its evolution as a company founded on the conviction that the arts and business, together, can contribute to making a better world,” he said.

Caisse de depot CEO Michael Sabia said it is partnering with Cirque as it seeks to conquer new markets.

“We are pleased that this new era of growth will be directed from Montreal, the Cirque’s decision-making and creative centre, under the direction of Daniel Lamarre as CEO,” he said in a statement.

The agreement will also see Quebec businessman Mitch Garber become chairman of the company.

TPG says its experience building brands like J. Crew and Neiman Marcus, along with its strong media and entertainment relationships, will provide Cirque with new revenue opportunities.

The new owners plan to expand Cirque’s presence in China. They also want to expand third-party licensing deals, digital media and ticket sales.

“We are inspired by Guy Laliberté’s imagination and vision, and look forward to working with him and his talented team, as well as the vibrant Montreal creative community,” said David Trujillo, a TPG partner.

The sale is expected to close in the third quarter.

Since beginning in 1984, Cirque has played to almost 160 million spectators in more than 330 cities in some 48 countries.

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