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  2015

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THE CIRQUE IS SOLD

Inarguably and unmistakenly, the biggest headline of the year is Guy Laliberté's announcement that he has sold his Cirque du Soleil to a group of investors:

On April 20th, Cirque du Soleil announced an agreement under which TPG Capital (60%), a Texas-based private equity investment firm; Fosun Capital Group (20%), a privately owned fund manager based in Shanghai; and La Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (10%), a long-term institutional investor that manages funds primarily for public and para-public pension and insurance plans, would jointly aquire a majority stake in the Cirque. Cirque du Soleil’s Founder, Guy Laliberté, will maintain a stake (10%) in the business and will continue to provide strategic and creative input to the company, the announcement said. Québec businessman Mitch Garber, who has strong business ties to TPG, would also be part of the investor group. Mr. Garber would become Chairman of Cirque du Soleil, adding valuable expertise and a strong Montréal-community presence to the new board of directors.

    “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,” said Guy Laliberté. “Just as importantly, I am thrilled that the investors have demonstrated such a strong commitment to Cirque’s unique Québec cultural heritage and the creativity and imagination of our people.”

As part of the agreement, Cirque du Soleil’s talented team will remain in place and TPG has made binding commitments to ensure that the headquarters and the creative activities of Cirque du Soleil will remain in Montréal, a community that has always been at the heart of Cirque’s success. Daniel Lamarre will remain as Cirque’s President and CEO.

None of the stakeholders disclosed the financial terms of the transaction. However, reports have valued the sale at $1.5 billion. Laliberté said he decided to sell the majority stake in the company to TPG for personal reasons and to ensure the success of the Montreal-based organization. "In all consciousness and with a rigorous personal reflection and corporate reflection, I believe I am making the best decision for Cirque du Soleil and its future, and the best decision for myself and my family," he said. The 55-year-old former street performer said part of the reason he is taking a smaller role is to spend more time with his family and pursue personal interests. "I gave myself, at the starting point, 10-years. I went on for 31 years. It's more that I could even imagine," said Laliberté.

It's more than fans could imagine as well. Where the Cirque went from here was anyone's guess, but the company continued to chug along...

SHOWS AND SPECIAL EVENTS

Via the 45 DEGREES brand, the Special Events team was selected to create an engaging and unique show concept to be presented during the Milan Universal Expo from May 1st through October 31st. This became ALLAVITA, and the title of the show is a call to feed our lives with pleasure, spice, and passion. The group then went on to partner with Club Med to launch a completely new and unique concept in experiential travel with Club Med CREACTIVE by Cirque du Soleil. The CREACTIVE concept made its debut at Club Med Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic in June, where guests could learn many of the exciting acrobatic disciplines showcased in famed Cirque productions. Around the same time, Cirque signed a five-year agreement with Cogeco, a Canadian diversified telecommunications and media company headquartered in Montréal, to stage exclusively created shows for the newly built Amphithéâtre Cogeco in Trois-Rivières (a city located halfway between Montréal and Quebec City). These 75 minute shows, called the Série Hommage (or the Tribute Series), are inspired by the musical and artistic works of iconic Québec artists. The first of these shows - "Le Monde Est Fou" - is in tribute to Beau Dommage, a rock band from Montréal who achieved popular success in Québec and France in the 1970s.

The Scalada series continued with STORIA, a special production that takes root in the founding legends of the principality of Andorra. The special events team also created the opening ceremonies for the 2015 Pan Am Games (whereby A Tribe Called Red’s DJ Shub twisting vinyl on elevated turntables as 183 vibrantly clad dancers nodded to the city’s diversity with a “Powwow Carnival” that sought to incorporate choreography from countless cultures); actviated the T.O Brand for Lipton (advertisement for a new tea machine that combined cutting-edge filming techniques with beautiful in-air and undewater peformances by Cirque du Soleil); and performed BRAVURA in Mumbai, India (two 10 minute performances presented at an Awards Ceremony there).

While the Special Events team had a breathtaking year, there have also been a number of notables under the main sails, including: the closure of DRALION after almost 16 years touring the globe in the big top and in arenas (January 18th); and the final curtain call for CORTEO after 10 years under the big top (December 13th), rumor has it the show will not make the leap to arenas, but you never know. TORUK-The First Flight, Cirque du Soleil's trip into the world of James Cameron's AVATAR, launches (November 20th); a re-vamped ZUMANITY makes its debut (January); and a number of performances hit special milestones: JOYA celebrates it's 100th performance (February 21st), CORTEO celebrates 3,500th performance (March 29th), VAREKAI celebrates it's 4,500th performance (June 26th), KURIOS celebrates it's 500th performance (August 16th), and La Nouba celebrates it's 8,000th performance (on November 21st).

And there's still more to come:

On June 14th, Cirque du Soleil and PopArt Music, an Argentinean company, announced that they will work jointly with Soda Stereo and Sony Music to create a show inspired by the music and history of the band. This new creation is expected to premiere in Buenos Aires in 2017 and will tour throughout Latin America. On August 18th, Cirque du Soleil Theatrical announcd a new $25 million production - PARAMOUR, the organization’s first created specifically for Broadway, a blending the best of Broadway with Cirque du Soleil’s signature style. And last, but certainly not least, a new resident show for... China! The first permanent Cirque du Soleil in China is scheduled for early 2018 in the city of Hangzhou.

OTHER ENDEAVOURS AND NEWS

First up is "Inside the Box of Kurios", a new ten-minute virtual reality experience from Félix & Paul Studios and Cirque du Soleil Média in partnership with Samsung for the launch of the new Gear VR virtual reality headset for the Galaxy S6. Next, Cirque du Soleil gets into the Rock-n-Roll business by acquiring a 20% equity stake in Rock in Rio USA, a music festival held for two weekends in May where more than 100 acts representing the best music of America, Britain, and Brazil, entertained hundreds of thousands of fans at its very own 37-acre City of Rock on the Las Vegas Strip. If successful, Rock in Rio USA will be held again in 2017, and again in 2019. (NOTE: It would not be overly successful. The 2017 convention did not occurr and there are no further plans for future gatherings.)

Then, over at LIGHT Nightclub (at Mandalay Bay), Cirque Theatrical and Baz Luhrmann's For the Record team up for the residency of FOR THE RECORD: BAZ, a blend of moments from Moulin Rouge, The Great Gatsby, and Romeo + Juliet. But the production is short-lived, as Cirque's new owners have no desire to be in the cuthroat nightclub business. So while LIGHT, along with Revolution Lounge (at the Mirage), and Gold Lounge (at ARIA) were succesful, this was not a business segment the new owners were interested in. Thus, on October 9th, Cirque officially turned off the lights, as it were. While LIGHT would stay open (albeit with all the Cirque aspects removed - BAZ had to go), REVOLUTION Lounge at the Mirage and GOLD Lounge at ARIA would close and be replaced.

Though Cirque du Soleil would be out of the Las Vegas nightclub business, it was not out of the gaming business. Scientific Games announced a new partnership with the company for an eye-catching, bonus-rich slot game that transported players into the extraordinary world of KOOZA. And although Cirque du Soleil Theatrical got off to a shaky start with BAZ, they would go on to help produce "The Wiz" LIVE for NBC and in turn bring about a Broadway revival for the musical. Following the successful live broadcasts of “The Sound of Music” and “Peter Pan,” NBC broadcast a live television production of the hit Broadway musical THE WIZ on December 3rd. However, following the live broadcast, which was very successful, an attempt to bring about a revival on Broadway for the 2016-2017 season was quietly stopped. Word on the street was that Cirque du Soleil Theatrical could not find a venue willing to host the revival.

The company also signed a first-look deal with 20th Century Fox Television to develop live-action prime-time scripted projects that went beyond the Cirque du Soleil brand and its live shows, but beyond the initial press release, nothing else is ever heard about the deal.


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