Cirque du Soleil acquires Minnesota-based company as part of expansion drive

MONTREAL — The Cirque du Soleil Entertainment Group has announced the acquisition of a Minnesota-based company that produces theatrical shows, exhibits, cruise ship activities and outdoor events.

The deal announced Thursday is for VStar Entertainment Group and its Florida-based subsidiary, Cirque Dreams.

While terms were not disclosed, Cirque du Soleil president Daniel Lamarre told The Canadian Press the transaction is worth “several million dollars.”

VStar, which has about 120 employees, is best known for its children and family shows, including “PAW Patrol.”

The PAW Patrol Live ‘Race to the Rescue’ tour visited 250 cities in 18 countries on four continents in 2017.

“For us, it’s clearly an entry into the world of children’s shows,” Lamarre said in the interview.

VStar CEO Eric Grilly said his company has traditionally been able to grow over the years because of partnerships.

“We now find ourselves on the brink of our next chapter and only a global producer like Cirque du Soleil could help us achieve our vision,” Grilly said in a statement.

Lamarre said Cirque Dreams’ expertise in the production of shows in theatres and and tourism hot spots will help broaden the Cirque du Soleil’s portfolio.

“The Cirque (du Soleil) sells about 13 million tickets a year,” Lamarre said. “Our acquisitions since last year have added another four million to our sales.”

Thursday’s announcement comes a year after the Cirque bought the Blue Man Group.

And the Cirque hasn’t finished diversifying.

“We want to be able to be in a market for as long as possible,” Lamarre said. “That’s why we’re looking for shows that are different from the ones we currently have in our portfolio.”

Since 2015, American investment firm TPG Capital has owned 60 per cent of the Cirque du Soleil, with Chinese firm Fosun Capital Group having a 20 per cent share.

Quebec’s pension fund manager, the Caisse de depot et placement, has a 10 per cent stake, as does Cirque co-founder Guy Laliberte.

Julien Arsenault, The Canadian Press

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