Cirque du Soleil has agreed to acquire Blue Man Productions, the first purchase in its quest to expand beyond the circus arts. Terms of the deal, backed by new Cirque ownership group TGP, have not been disclosed.
“We want to broaden our horizons, develop new forms of entertainment, reach out to new audiences and expand our own creative capabilities,” said Daniel Lamarre, president and CEO of Montreal-based Cirque du Soleil.
Three decades after Cirque’s creation in Montreal, the company is looking to diversify and build upon the marketing and distribution machine it has built around the world. The ambitions were put in motion two years ago when TPG, a $73 billion private-equity firm, took a majority stake. At the time, The Wall Street Journal reported that the investment valued Cirque du Soleil at $1.5 billion.
TPG also owns stakes in CAA, Spotify and Univision. With the acquisition of Blue Man Group, Cirque du Soleil is looking to expand its audience. Blue Man Group currently has six productions stationed in New York, Boston, Las Vegas, Chicago, Orlando and Berlin, and two touring productions roving around North America and the world. The company was owned by its co-founders Chris Wink and Phil Stanton, and the GF Capital Private Equity Fund.
Cirque du Soleil’s audience is much larger, with 18 shows in Vegas, Macau and touring arenas and big top shows. The Blue Man Group deal means a march toward a position as a global leader of entertainment. Cirque du Soleil and TPG have reportedly compiled a list of additional acquisition targets to add to the entertainment portfolio. So who could they acquire? Below are five properties that might make the list.
The traveling tent and circus show owns the popular Absinthe tent show in Los Angeles, Las Vegas and New York. The naughty burlesque and acrobatic circus seems like an obvious fit with Cirque, infusing sexual comedy with incredible athleticism inside the custom-built Speigletent. Founded by Ross Mollison, the company also owns the shows Empire and Vegas Nocturne, co-produced with BASE Entertainment.
This dance troupe currently based at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas has done steady business for years. First breaking through on America’s Best Dance Crew, Jabbawockeez has toured extensively and staged several permanent shows in Vegas and launched a record label. They have worked with Coca-Cola and Universal Studios and are still a popular show for dance enthusiasts.
Magic Mike Live
Based on the popular movie franchise, Magic Mike Live Las Vegas recreates the mythical Club Domina as a cabaret nightclub space inside the Hard Rock Hotel. The ladies night out event features thirteen bodacious bods performing in front of, behind, above and all around the audience. The Vegas show was conceived and co-created by the Channing Tatum film franchise choreographer Alison Faulk. While the show has done great business as the go-to bachelorette party destination, there’s no reason this entertainment property can’t tour the U.S. and make for a strong addition to the Cirque portfolio with plenty of opportunities in the digital space — how about the Magic Mike virtual reality experience?
The company created after Vince Egan sold his interest in Vee Corporation has experience a rough ride in the months after his death. Last year, Vee Corp. lost its long-time contract to stage Sesame Street Live to Feld. The private equity backed Vstar, bought by Blue Star Media, and led by CEO Eric Grilly, a former Comcast Sports Group executive, still tours the popular Paw Patrol Live and Cirque Dreams, a touring show similar to Cirque du Soleil. If investors AUA Private Equity Partners are ready to get out of the family show world, they might find a buyer in Cirque du Soleil.
Ringling Bros and Barnum and Bailey Circus
Feld closed the long-running show earlier this after elephants were phased out of the show. That led to a precipitous drop in attendance and an economic reality that made touring next to impossible. Perhaps Cirque could revamp the 140-year-old plus brand with a Cirque du Soleil show geared towards kids. Besides being a well-known consumer brand, Ringling Bros. holds some valuable intellectual property that will likely only increase in value over time. If the Feld family is game to sell, Cirque might find a way to capitalize on a valuable brand.
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