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Cirque du Soleil thrown a $200M lifeline by Quebec

Updated May 26, 2020 - 10:43 pm

Cirque du Soleil is a Las Vegas institution. The production company also is a favorite in its home province of Quebec.

Thus, Cirque has been thrown a lifeline in the form of a loan of up to $200 million under the government’s Investissement Quebec company.

On Tuesday, Pierre Fitzgibbon, the province’s economy minister, announced the publicly funded loan to keep the faltering company in business. The Montreal Gazette posted the original story about the latest move in Cirque’s attempts to stabilize.

As a provision of the loan, Fitzgibbon also said the Quebec government will accept the option to buy Cirque if the company decides to sell. Cirque would then be under Quebec ownership, though Fitzgibbon said the government agency does not want to run the company. The loan is intended to ensure Cirque’s financial viability.

“The Cirque has a need for financial aid to allow it to be relaunched,” the minister said prepared remarks. “The current shareholders have a plan to relaunch the Cirque and they came to see us. We said, ‘Yes, we’re going to help you but here are the conditions.’ … The most important thing is we are relaunching the Cirque with Quebecers in positions of power, with the intellectual property here. …

“The Cirque is too important for Quebec to let it be bought by a foreign company that will then move the head office out of Quebec.”

Cirque responded in a statement: “We welcome today’s announcement, which is part of the company’s recapitalization process. The strong interest shown by the consortium formed by Investissement Québec and our current shareholders is further evidence of the strength of our brand and the importance of preserving the Québec heritage of Cirque du Soleil.”

This month, Cirque has received $50 million in “emergency funds” from primary investors TPG Capital of San Francisco, Fosun Capital Group of China and the pension fund Caisse de depot et placement du Quebec. Just as that infusion was announced, company founder Guy Laliberté went public to share his dream of possibly returning to the company.

On Sunday, Laliberté told Radio-Canada he intended to buy back the company: “Today, I took the decision to embark on the purchasing process.” But his overture was two days before Quebec’s government stepped in with its own financial offer.

Cirque sidelined 44 shows internationally, including six Las Vegas Strip productions, because of the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown. Nearly 4,700 employees, 1,300 working in Las Vegas, were laid off. The company has confirmed it is $900 million in debt; published reports indicate Cirque owes more than $1.25 billion to creditors.

In an interview this month, Cirque CEO Daniel Lamarre reinforced his commitment to the company’s return, starting with its Strip shows.

“The good news, though, for the Vegas situation, compared to our touring situation, is about 100 percent of our artists, the cast and crew of each show, lives in Las Vegas,” Lamarre said in an interview. “At least in Las Vegas we don’t have to deal with trying to regroup our touring people from a different side of the world.”

John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His PodKats! podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at jkatsilometes@reviewjournal.com. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

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