Ottawa approves Cirque du Soleil sale to group headed by U.S. private equity firm

Actors perform in Cirque du Soleil's "Kurios - Cabinet of Curiosities" in this undated handout photo.
Actors perform in Cirque du Soleil's "Kurios - Cabinet of Curiosities" in this undated handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Handout

TORONTO – The federal government said Tuesday it has approved the sale of the famed circus group Cirque du Soleil to a group of investors headed by a U.S. private equity firm and its Chinese partners.

Industry Minister James Moore said in a statement that the sale of the 31-year-old circus company to TPG VII CDS Holdings was approved because it was deemed an economic benefit to Canada.

To win the approval TPG agreed to a number of conditions that would focus on keeping the company Canadian.

TIMELINE: The history of the Cirque du Soleil

The commitments include maintaining Cirque’s strategic decision making and creative and artistic development at its headquarters in Montréal, according Industry Canada. The approval also requires at least 70 per cent of senior managers in Canada to be Canadian, and for there to be a “significant Canadian presence” on Cirque’s broader leadership team and board of directors.

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TPG will also be required to provide annual progress reports to the Canadian government regarding compliance.

Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberté announced the sale of the company in late April for an undisclosed price.

“After 30 years building the Cirque du Soleil brand, we have now found the right partners in TPG, Fosun and the Caisse to take Cirque du Soleil forward to the next stage in its evolution as a company founded on the conviction that the arts and business, together, can contribute to making a better world,” Laliberté said of the sale in April.

While the price of the sale has not been disclosed a report from the Wall Street Journal reported the deal to be worth roughly US$1.5 billion, citing anonymous sources close to the deal.

TPG is set to acquire a 60 per cent stake, Chinese investment firm Fosun to get a 20 per cent stake and Quebec pension fund manager the Caisse de depot will get 10 per cent. Laliberte maintains 10 per cent.