Cirque du Soleil Files For Bankruptcy Protection Following Major Slow Down Due To Coronavirus

a cirque du soleil performance
Hannes Magerstaedt / Getty Images

Cirque du Soleil, the venerable Canadian animal-free circus act that has been a must-have ticket in Las Vegas for decades, has filed for bankruptcy, becoming the latest victim of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported, the company announced from its Montreal headquarters that it was seeking debt restructuring protection under Canada’s Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA), effectively the Canadian version of filing for bankruptcy.

Specifically, the company is seeking protection from its creditors and attempting to reduce its debt load, reported to be somewhere in the range of $900 million. It also allows for an outside company to purchase the circus act.

“The purchase agreement sets the floor, or minimum acceptable bid, for an auction of the company under the court’s supervision pursuant to the SISP (Sale and Investor Solicitation Process), which is designed to achieve the highest value available or otherwise best offer for the company and its stakeholders,” the company said in an announcement.

As of this writing, a half-dozen potential investors are looking at buying the company at its bargain-basement price. One of those potential investors is the very man who started the company, former Quebec street performer Guy Laliberté, who sold off much of his stake in the company in 2015.

MUNICH, GERMANY - FEBRUARY 13: Canadian circus troop "Cirque du Soleil" performs in their acrobatic performance during the premiere of "Totem" by Cirque du Soleil at Theresienwiese on February 13, 2020 in Munich, Germany. (Photo by Hannes Magerstaedt/Getty Images)
  Hannes Magerstaedt / Getty Images

Other potential investors include the Canadian communications conglomerate Quebecor. The remaining potential investors have not been publicly named.

Meanwhile, the company is reported to have about $300 million in liquid operating revenue, about $200 million of which came from a Canadian government agency, Investissement Quebec. That revenue will be used to cover operating costs until the performance troupe has new owners and is up and running again. About $15 million of that is earmarked for paying employees’ benefits while they’re sidelined, and another $5 million for contractors who have not been paid since the company’s shows shut down.

As recently as a year ago, shutting down Cirque du Soleil would have been all but unthinkable. The company had 44 shows, including no fewer than six shows at various properties in Las Vegas, as well as a permanent show at Walt Disney World in Florida, and various permanent and semi-permanent shows here and there, plus touring companies across the world.

However, the coronavirus brought everything to a screeching halt, and the company had to lay off 95 percent of its workforce, including 1,300 employees in Las Vegas alone.

Cirque du Soleil is not the only circus act sidelined by the coronavirus pandemic. In April, as reported at the time by The Inquisitr, a traveling circus act found itself stuck in a Texas parking lot and running out of both food and money, sidelined by the virus and unable to send its performers home due to travel restrictions.