Cirque du Soleil sells majority stake to TPG, Chinese partner: Reuters

Cirque du Soleil, the ragtag group of street performers in Canada that grew into a global circus and entertainment colossus, is selling a majority stake to a U.S. private equity fund and its Chinese partner, Cirque du Soleil said on Monday.

The new partners plan to expand into China, as well as push growth plans for the circus troupe in New York and London, Cirque executives said.

The deal to sell control to a group led by Texas-based TPG Capital LP values the Montréal-based Cirque at about US$1.5 billion, according to people familiar with the matter.

TPG will own 60 percent, while a unit of Chinese conglomerate Fosun International Ltd will have a 20 percent stake, Cirque founder Guy Laliberté (pictured with Cirque performers) said. Canada’s second-largest pension fund, the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, will hold a 10 percent stake, while Laliberté’s family trust will keep the remaining 10 percent.

The deal will keep the troupe, whose name means circus of the sun, and which generates US$1 billion in revenues annually, headquartered in Montréal, Chief Executive Daniel Lamarre said.

On the move into China, Lamarre said: “It’s sure that having a local partner, who will help us in our development, will greatly increase our chances of success.

“We think that the market is ready for us.”

Fosun, which acquired French holiday group Club Med in February, also bought a 5 percent stake in British travel group Thomas Cook last month.

Laliberté, 55, who had owned 90 percent of Cirque, said he preferred to sell the company rather than leave it to his five children, who, he said, have other interests.

“I truly don’t believe in second-generation enterprise,” he added. “They (my children) have their own passion. And as a father I want to be able to support their passion.”

By Allison Lampert

(Reporting by Anet Josline Pinto in Bengaluru; Editing by Maju Samuel; and Peter Galloway)

(This story has been edited by Kirk Falconer, editor of peHUB Canada)

Photo courtesy of Reuters/Christinne Muschi