Dubai buys a fifth of Cirque du Soleil

Nakheel, Istithmar World Capital invest in troupe

TORONTO -- Dubai investors have acquired a 20% stake in Canada's Cirque du Soleil for an undisclosed sum.

Property developer Nakheel, builder of about 300 palm-shaped islands off the Dubai coast, and Istithmar World Capital have purchased a minority stake that will leave control of the privately held circus troupe with founder Guy Laliberte.

"This partnership is the best of both worlds for me and my management team," Laliberte said Wednesday in a joint statement with Nakheel and Istithmar.

Montreal-based Cirque, which has annual sales of about $700 million and attracts nearly 10 million fans annually, had denied media reports in recent months that it was entertaining buyout offers, including from Dubai.

Dubai has figured in the Canadian company's continuing worldwide expansion. In May, Cirque and Nakheel unveiled a 15-year deal to build and operate a permanent home for the international circus troupe on one of the island properties, Palm Jumeirah, with a summer 2011 launch date.

The Cirque's Quidam show last year was staged in Dubai and drew in about 100,000 patrons to a tent-style venue erected at Nakheel's Ibn Battuta Mall.

In addition to the permanent theater, Cirque du Soleil will open a production office in Dubai, a ticketing company and an equipment and set-design rental company.

Both Nakheel and Istithmar are part of Dubai World, which is controlled by Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum.
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