Private Equity Gets Into The Circus Business

Private equity giant TPG has purchased The Cirque du Soleil it announced Monday. The American PE behemoth has signed a deal to sell a majority stake in the famed circus group for an undisclosed price. This confirms our report last week that talks were underway.

The key to getting the deal done was to ensure that the company’s headquarters will remain in Montreal. Cirque founder, onetime astronaut and all around interesting man Guy Laliberté will maintain a stake in the Montreal-based company and continue to provide strategic and creative input. Estimates last week are that he will continue to hold around 10% of the company once the deal closes.

Chinese investment firm Fosun and Quebec pension fund manager Caisse de dépôt will hold minority stakes, which is likely a setback for them. It seemed last week like the Fosun in particular was looking for a large stake and was likely muscled out by TPG.

Caisse CEO Michael Sabia said it is investing with Cirque to help it 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.

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

The buying group is particularly interested in expanding Cirque’s presence in China. They also want to do more 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.

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