What started as just a small group of street performers made their way into Las Vegas some 25 years ago in a tent behind the Mirage. Just a few years later, Cirque du Soleil got its first show at Treasure Island, Mystere, which still runs to this day, in addition to 18 others across the globe.
Founder Guy Laliberte, who has seen his net worth grow to over $2 billion from the business, has decided to sell 90 percent of his stake in the company to U.S. private equity firm TPG. Laliberte said, “I want to set other creative challenges for myself.” Laliberte also created the One Drop tournament at the World Series of Poker, in which the best players from around the world battle it out for a buy-in of $1 million. A portion of the buy-ins go to Laliberte’s One Drop Foundation.
Laliberte said he did not want to pass the business on to his children, but would prefer them to follow their own dreams. “They have their dreams and as a father I have made the commitment to support them as they chase them,” he said. He founded his circus company in 1984 with funding of $1.5 million from Quebec’s provincial government. It is estimated nearly 160 million spectators have seen a Cirque show.
Laliberte also shut down claims that the company is in financial woes, and pointed to the fact they sell 11 million tickets per year. TPG is planning to bring Cirque’s presence to China. The sale should be finalized in the third quarter. Laliberte will remain as a consultant.