May 13, 2020
Cirque founder warns of 'sharks' as stakeholders vie for control
Co-founder of Cirque Du Soleil cries that 'sharks' are circling the company
The founder of Cirque du Soleil has likened the competition over the company’s future to a wrestling match and warned of “sharks” circling the perimeter of the ring.
“From my point of view, we’re in for a battle royale,” Guy Laliberté wrote in an impassioned open letter published Wednesday.
“I am deciding whether or not I’m going to jump into that wrestling ring.”
The Montreal-based entertainment company, which Laliberté founded in 1984 with fellow street performers, has cancelled its shows around the world due to the COVID-19 pandemic and, according to The Canadian Press, has laid off 95 per cent of its workforce.
Laliberté sold his remaining stake — nearly 10 per cent — in the company to Quebec pension giant Caisse de dépôt in February.
In the letter, Laliberté outlines the stakeholders vying for control of Cirque. At the “front of the ring,” he wrote, are current shareholders, specifically TPG, Fosun International and the Caisse.
“My heart goes out to them,” he wrote.
He then mentions debtholders, “who took the risk of financing Cirque,” and the different levels of government “who want what is best” for the company.
Without naming any company specifically, Laliberté goes on to express skepticism over whether “some of the major players in the entertainment industry” will be able to give the company the “love and energy” it needs to come back to life.
He lambastes unspecified “sharks, who have no knowledge of the entertainment industry and dream of buying Cirque for a song.”
He also took aim at potential outside investors “at the very back of the ring … who have no skills or experience in managing cultural organizations of this scale. Those are the ones who pose the great threat to Cirque’s future.”
Last week, Quebecor Inc. announced it was prepared to “inject several hundred million dollars to enable the Cirque to resume its activities and to ensure its sustainability,” but said it has not been able to move forward with the investment because efforts to obtain Cirque’s financial records were “rebuffed” by management.
Quebecor did not respond to BNN Bloomberg’s request for comment on Laliberté letter.