The famous Cirque du Soleil is set to be bailed out by Quebec's provincial government, as announced by Pierre Fitzgibbon, Quebec's Economy Minister, on Wednesday. The Montreal-based circus will be given a loan of $200 million USD to keep the franchise alive, according to the Montreal Gazette.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic The Cirque had to lay off almost its entire staff, almost 4,700 people and cancel all upcoming 44 international shows.
Should the circus' current owner decide to sell the company the deal includes an option that would give the Quebec government a chance to buy it so that it would remain under Quebec ownership.
The Quebec government has no intention of actually running the business however, pointed out Fitzgibbon.
“The Cirque has a need for financial aid to allow it to be relaunched,” said Fitzgibbon. “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 du Soleil is currently majority controlled by the American investment firm TPG Captial.
TPG Capital, China’s Fosun Capital Group, and the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec are the three main shareholders. Recently they gave the Cirque $50 million to keep it in business amid the pandemic.
The provincial government's financial arm, Investissement Québec has made an agreement in principle with the three main shareholders to help provide additional aid.
The Cirque du Soleil's founder Guy Laliberte has also expressed interest in the company as well as Quebecor but for now the government will side with the current shareholders.
“The government can’t offer a blank cheque to the billionaires who presently own the Cirque or to those who want to acquire it. The government should take a more active role that will allow it to be at the table to take part in decisions for the future and not just be a spectator watching the sale of this Québécois jewel.” said Vincent Marissal, an economy expert for Quebec Solidaire.
Gabriel Dubé-Dupuis, who worked as a creative director for the Cirque du Soleil said, “It makes us very happy to see that there are viable options being presented and that there’s interest in the survival of the Cirque du Soleil,” Dube-Dupuis also acts as a spokesperson for a group of Quebec artists that are currently owed money by the company and he's advocating that the government make one condition of their loan be that they pay out the over $1 million that us owed to various artists that have worked for them.
“But in the meantime, we haven’t been paid. This is money we need to put food on the table.” said Dube-Dupuis.
A statement released by the Current Cirque management read, “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.”
Fitzgibbon said the current Cirque debt is over $ 1 billion USD and that should be one main priority with regards to the provincial loan, saying, “And we agreed on a level of debt that’s much lower than that. … The Cirque will continue to pay its taxes in Quebec and in Canada and also the salaries of the top executives will be reasonable as is the case in all of the situations where the government is involved. In terms of the non-financial conditions, the head office and the decision-making centre will have to be in Quebec, and the intellectual property will stay in Quebec. And the top executives will be Quebec residents.”