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Mon Dieu! COVID-19! Cirque du Soleil gets $200 million from Quebec

The government of Quebec is giving Cirque du Soleil $200 million to survive after getting battered by COVID-19’s sheltering-in-place edicts.

Mon Dieu! COVID-19! Cirque du Soleil gets $200 million from Quebec
[Photo: Owen Carey/Cirque du Soleil]
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The government of Quebec wants to join the circus—or at least help it out.

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It’s giving Cirque du Soleil $200 million to help it survive after getting battered, like other live entertainment companies, by COVID-19’s sheltering-in-place edicts.

The province’s economy minister, Pierre Fitzgibbon, made the announcement at a press conference in Quebec City yesterday.

Among the tenets of the deal are the option for Quebec to buy the circus from shareholders TPG Capital, China-based Fosun, and Canadian pension fund manager Caisse de dépôt et placement. Cirque executives’ salaries must be “very reasonable,” and the head office along with senior managers’ residences will be in Quebec.

Fitzgibbon called this “the revival of the circus” and pointed out that Cirque had “very good profitability” before the pandemic. He said the 36-year-old Montreal-based company was “an important element in Quebec’s creativity.”

Right before the pandemic began, Cirque du Soleil had 44 shows around the world, including its first in China. As countries began shutting down due to the disease, the business began to increasingly suffer.

“We welcome yesterday’s announcement which is part of the company’s recapitalization process,” spokeswoman Caroline Couillard said in an e-mail. “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.”

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In an interview with Fast Company in April, CEO Daniel Lamarre described the brand as a “Canadian ambassador” that promotes Canada all over the world, and he expressed hope for some sort of government assistance.

Cirque du Soleil—arguably best known for its popular, extravagant shows in Las Vegas, which are responsible for roughly 35% of its revenues—made an estimated $950 million last year. Its performers, ranging from acrobats and jugglers to aerialists and contortionists, have been to 1,450 cities in 90 countries. The company employs close to 4,700 people.