Cirque du Soleil files for bankruptcy

Cirque du Soleil performers Anna Batchuluun Brown and Wes Hatfield take part in the Mask up for...
Cirque du Soleil performers Anna Batchuluun Brown and Wes Hatfield take part in the Mask up for Nevada campaign this month. Photo: Getty Images
Canada's Cirque du Soleil Entertainment Group has filed for bankruptcy protection as the Covid-19 pandemic forced the famed circus operator to cancel shows and lay off its artistes.

The Montreal-based entertainment company, which runs six shows in Las Vegas, has struggled to keep its business running amid coronavirus restrictions that started in March, forcing it to lay off about 95% of its workforce and temporarily suspend its shows.

"With zero revenue since the forced closure of all of our shows due to Covid-19, the management had to act decisively to protect the company's future," chief executive Officer Daniel Lamarre said.

The company has signed an agreement with its existing investors private equity fund TPG Capital, China's Fosun International Ltd, and Canadian pension fund Caisse de depot et placement du Québec under which the group will take over Cirque's liabilities and invest $US300 million ($467 million) to support a restart.

As part of the investment, government body Investissement Québec will provide $US200 million in debt financing.

TPG, Fosun and the Canadian pension fund, which have held a majority stake in the entertainment company since 2015, will also be responsible for a $US15 million employee fund to provide financial assistance to laid-off employees.

Cirque said it will seek protection under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act, and its application will be heard on Tuesday by the Superior Court of Quebec. It will also seek its immediate provisional recognition in the United States under Chapter 15.

The company also said the artists and show staff of resident shows in Las Vegas and Orlando, which are expected to resume before the rest of its shows, would not be impacted by the lay offs.

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