Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberte sells remaining stake to Caisse

MONTREAL — Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberte is selling the last of his shares in the entertainment behemoth nearly 36 years after launching the Quebec-based circus troupe.

The Caisse de depot et placement du Quebec says it buying Laliberte's remaining 10 per cent stake in Cirque du Soleil Entertainment Group, nearly doubling the Quebec pension giant's share to about 20 per cent.

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Laliberte, who less than five years ago retained about 90 per cent of the company, said he is "happy" his stock is going "to Quebec's interests."

The street performer-turned-billionaire said he will remain involved in the creative process while supporting the Quebec entertainment industry through his other projects.

"He will be here in our offices (Tuesday) to review the content of a new show we're preparing," Cirque CEO Daniel Lamarre said in a phone interview. "His commitment remains intact. That's reassuring."

The price of the transaction, which closed Monday, was not specified.

San Francisco-based private equity firm TPG Capital remains Cirque du Soleil's majority shareholder following the deal, the Caisse said.

China-based Fosun Capital Group retains a 20 per cent stake.

Lamarre said he is not certain when Cirque will be able to relaunch its show, "The Land of Fantasy" in Hangzhou, China.

The company announced on Jan. 23 it would suspend performances due to the rapid spread of the COVID-19 virus in the country. About 200 people were working on the show, including 13 Canadians.

Cirque has about 1,500 employees in its Montreal head office, part of a staff of 4,900 people who work on 50 permanent and touring shows around the world.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on Feb. 17, 2020.

© Kipling Citizen

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