Cirque du Soleil Founder Sells Stake to Pension Fund Giant

Paramour -Cirque du Soleil- On Broadway-H 2016
Courtesy of Richard Termine

Billionaire Guy Laliberte's cashing out follows majority control of the Canadian-based entertainment group going to American and Chinese investors.

A Quebec pension fund giant has bought out a 10 percent stake in Cirque du Soleil, known for its live shows in Las Vegas, from billionaire founder Guy Laliberte.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Caisse de depot et placement has raised its holding in the Montreal-based entertainment group to 20 percent after Cirque du Soleil was sold to American and Chinese investors in 2015. Laliberte, who started out as a fire-breather before helping to launch the Montreal-based circus troupe in 1984, sold off all but a 10 percent stake in Cirque du Soleil five years ago to sustain its global expansion.

"I am happy that my share of Cirque du Soleil, which I founded 35 years ago, is going to Quebec interests. I will continue to be involved in the creative process for shows and, more importantly, in supporting and contributing to the reach of Quebec’s entertainment industry through my other projects,” Laliberte said Monday in a statement.

The Cirque du Soleil founder's cashing out comes ahead of the entertainment group getting set to hold a possible initial public offering to tap equity markets for additional growth capital. After the latest transaction, Texas-based TPG Capital remains the majority shareholder of Cirque du Soleil Entertainment Group with a 55 percent stake and China's Fosun Capital Group retains a separate 25 percent stake.

Despite becoming a global brand on the strength of its traveling and permanent circus shows, Cirque du Soleil in recent years has diversified into film, TV and digital exploitation of its brand in partnership with Canada's Bell Media and Saban Brands, among others.

The continued global expansion of Cirque du Soleil includes a host of new film, TV and digital partners. The Canadian-based company last year acquired The Works Entertainment, the company that has partnered with Lionsgate in the production of a live magic show based on the hit film franchise Now You See Me, and earlier bought the Blue Man Group in 2017 and VStar Entertainment Group, which specializes in children's shows, in 2018.