Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberté says he is jumping into the battle for control of the cash-strapped circus troupe.
Just three months after selling his remaining ownership position in the famed entertainment company, Mr. Laliberté said in a statement Sunday evening that he would take part in its attempted recovery.
“After careful consideration, I choose to follow my heart and to embark with confidence on the recovery process, surrounded by a great internal and external team, and boosted by the support of the public, great local creators and the Cirque community,” Mr. Laliberté said. “I wanted to make sure that I had a solid business plan, and the consent and support of my family, before making the announcement.”
He declined to name any partners or financial backers, saying a deal will be done “at the right price, not at any price.”
The circus troupe has seen its revenue drop to nearly zero overnight as its live shows were cancelled across the world under government orders prohibiting public gatherings because of the coronavirus pandemic. Some 4,700 employees have been laid off while a core group remained to plot how to get operations going again.
The company has now launched a formal search for new capital. Existing shareholders TPG Capital LP, Fosun Capital Group and Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec recently put an additional US$50-million into Cirque this month to pay bills that include interest on loans, giving the company a bit of breathing room until it finds a more permanent solution.
Cirque must make a deal that satisfies its creditors, who are owed US$900-million. The Quebec government is involved in the file and has said its priority is keeping the company’s headquarters in the province.
Mr. Laliberté released a separate statement earlier this month in which he said he was mulling whether to get involved in what he called a looming “battle royale” for Cirque. He said the company’s future as a Quebec-based entertainment pillar is based on “patient investors” and warned that the company is in danger of falling into the wrong hands.
Quebecor has already said that it made a preliminary offer for the business. The telecom and media company said it is willing to put several hundred million dollars into Cirque, but so far there have been no formal talks between the two sides.
Private equity fund Providence Equity Partners LLC is also expected to make an offer, according to investment banking sources. The Globe and Mail is not identifying the sources because they were not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.
Mr. Laliberté exited his ownership position in the Cirque in February, when he sold his remaining 10-per-cent stake in the company to the Caisse. He is no longer involved in the Cirque’s day-to-day operations, but is still consulted on shows.
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