Advertisement

Cirque du Soleil’s Saudi Arabia show ‘difficult’ for founder Guy Laliberté

Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberté speaks to the media at a news conference Monday, April 20, 2015 in Montreal. In the light of recent geopolitical tensions in Saudi Arabia, Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberté expressed some discomfort with the troop's performance in that country on Sept. 23. Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press

In the light of recent geopolitical tensions in Saudi Arabia, Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberté has expressed some discomfort with the troop’s performance in that country on Sept. 23.

During a meeting with the press on Thursday to unveil details around his most recent project, Lune Rouge, the businessman was careful to point out that he no longer holds decision-making power in this company.

“I’m a partner…but I do not make those decisions anymore,” said Laliberté. “Yes, it does something to me, but it’s not me who decides.”

READ MORE: It would cost Canada $1B to cancel Saudi arms deal in wake of Khashoggi case, Trudeau says

The Cirque show took place before the kingdom became the target of harsh criticism from members of the international community for the alleged murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi at a consulate in Istanbul, Turkey.

Story continues below advertisement

Nonetheless, the troupe’s performance, which took place on Saudi National Day, came in the midst of a diplomatic quarrel between Ottawa and Riyadh — which, among other things, provoked the expulsion of Canada’s ambassador by the kingdom.

Laliberté was cautious when asked to comment, saying it was “difficult” because of the presence of “old friends” in the company whom he did not want to criticize.

WATCH: Trudeau may cancel $15B arms deal with Saudi Arabia over Khashoggi

Click to play video: 'Trudeau may cancel $15B arms deal with Saudi Arabia over Khashoggi' Trudeau may cancel $15B arms deal with Saudi Arabia over Khashoggi
Trudeau may cancel $15B arms deal with Saudi Arabia over Khashoggi – Oct 24, 2018

“I’m sure that in the current context Cirque must be uncomfortable because (the deal was reached) at a time when it seemed that things were going in the right direction (in Saudi Arabia),” he said.

“At some point, do you make a decision to withdraw or not? It’s not my choice.”

Story continues below advertisement

In 2015, Laliberté sold 60 per cent of his stake in Cirque du Soleil to U.S. investment firm TPG Capital and 20 per cent to Fosun Capital Group, a Chinese firm. The Caisse de depot et placement du Quebec secured a 10 per cent interest, the same amount that the founder retains.

READ MORE: Tax court rules Guy Laliberté’s $42M space trip was a taxable benefit

The businessman is always involved in “creative thinking” within the company, he said.

Cirque du Soleil did not respond to emails sent by The Canadian Press on Thursday.

Sponsored content