Cirque du Soleil sells stakes to TPG, China's Fosun

Cirque du Soleil: End of an era as @Cirque sells majority stake to private equity

It's the end of an era for Cirque du Soleil.

On Monday, the Montreal company known for its colorful acrobatics and gravity-defying stunts announced that it is selling a majority stake to global private equity firm TPG in what Cirque said is a bid to fuel growth and expand its markets.

Cirque will also sell stakes to Fosun, a Chinese investment group, and Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, a Canadian pension fund. Officials at Cirque said the Fosun investment is intended to broaden the company's reach into China.

Guy Laliberté, the billionaire owner of Cirque, will retain a minority stake in the company and an advisory position. "I am thrilled that the investors have demonstrated such a strong commitment to Cirque's unique Québec cultural heritage and the creativity and imagination of our people," Laliberté said in a news release.

Laliberté and other Cirque officials held a news conference on Monday in Montreal to discuss the deal. Cirque hasn't disclosed information about the sale price to TPG or the other organizations.

The announcement comes after days of speculation that Cirque was looking for new owners following a financially difficult period for the acclaimed company. 

In 2013, Cirque laid off 400 employees, or about 8% of its global workforce. Recent shows such as "Iris" in Los Angeles, "Zaia" in Macau and "Viva Elvis" in Las Vegas were box-office disappointments and closed earlier than expected.

"Iris," which opened in 2011 at what is now the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, had been expected to run for at least 10 years but the company shut it down in 2013, citing weak public interest. The show is estimated to have cost $100 million.

The Wall Street Journal has reported that Cirque failed to turn a profit in 2012.

Cirque has recently sought to diversify its brand beyond acrobatic spectaculars and traveling big-top shows. It has launched a Broadway division that will help produce a revival of "The Wiz" for the 2016-17 season.

James Cameron has partnered with Cirque to create an "Avatar"-themed touring show.

For much of its history, Laliberté has run Cirque as a tightly held company with relatively little transparency. The Cirque co-founder has taken a step back from daily operations in recent years, handing much of the responsibility for the company to CEO Daniel Lamarre.

Last year, TPG acquired a majority stake in Creative Artists Agency, the Hollywood talent house.

The next touring Cirque show to come to L.A. will be "Kurios," which is set to run at Dodger Stadium starting Dec. 10. 

Twitter: @DavidNgLAT 



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