Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberte hints at possible interest in buying back in

Guy Laliberte, founder of the Cirque du Soleil and owner of the private island of Nukutepipi. (AFP)

With the circus empire he created battered financially by the COVID-19 pandemic and possible new investors circling it, Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberte hinted Wednesday that he might want back in.

In a lengthy open letter titled "Let's make sure the sun rises again," Laliberte said the Cirque's plight "for me has triggered a flood of emotions."

"Even though I'm no longer the company's owner, I will always be its founder," Laliberte wrote. "I have devoted half of my life to Cirque, and its success will always be close to my heart."

With Cirque du Soleil having laid off 95 per cent of its staff around the world and cancelled all of its public performances in recent weeks, Quebecor - the multimedia conglomerate controlled by Pierre Karl Peladeau - has been among those who have signalled a desire to buy the company, which has debts estimated to be in the range of $900 million.

Laliberte predicted that Quebecor would not be alone in its efforts, and that "we're about to see a wrestling match involving a number of players. From my point of view, we're in for a battle royale."

"I am deciding whether or not I'm going to jump into that wrestling ring," wrote Laliberte.

Laliberte sold 90 per cent of Cirque du Soleil in 2015 to a group of investors, including TPG, Fosun and the Caisse de depot et placement du Quebec. Earlier this year, the Caisse bought out Laliberte's outstanding 10 per cent share of the company.

In addition to what Laliberte sees as legitimate possible suitors for the Cirque, Laliberte also warned of unnamed "sharks, who have no knowledge of the entertainment industry and dream of buying Cirque for a song," as well as "those who have no skills or experience in managing cultural organizations of this scale. Those are the ones who pose the greatest threat to Cirque's future."

Laliberte pleaded patience to whoever winds up controlling the Cirque's future, likening it to a NHL team.

"You can't win the Stanley Cup 36 years in a row, but with patience, heart and hard work, you can dream of holding it in your hands once again."

You can read Laliberte's letter in its entirety here.

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