Guy Laliberté driving Cirque du Soleil to $1 billion empire

Timed to Cirque du Soleil bringing its new show, Zarkana, to New York this summer, the New York Times offers up a lengthy profile of its creative force, who is described as a “very nice bulldozer.”

With the caveat “analyzing his character is challenging since he has few close friends, and even his longtime associates say they hardly know him,” writer Jason Zinoman sits in on a rehearsal with Guy Laliberté and profiles the impresario who has built a modern circus empire:

The truth is, circus is Mr. Laliberté’s third passion. His second is travel. His first is business. Within the Cirque empire he has been the major fund-raiser since the beginning; in 1983 he landed a $1.3 million grant from the provincial Quebec government to present a show as part of the celebration of the 450th anniversary of the discovery of Canada. At the time his company was a modest nonprofit that divvied up beers at the end of rehearsal in a rented gym. But his original presentation included a five-year plan with multiple shows. He was 24.

Cirque had its breakthrough in Los Angeles in 1987. “Cirque Réinventé,” staged by Guy Caron, was new for American audiences familiar with Ringling Brothers. It was dramatic, emotional, occasionally slow and highly theatrical. Disney made an offer to buy the company. So did Columbia Pictures. Mr. Laliberté turned them both down, insisting on creative control.

Mr. Caron left the company following a dispute over money, and eventually returned, but Cirque’s history is riddled with power struggles that end with one survivor. “I survived three putsches,” Mr. Laliberté says with his usual swagger.

It’s a fascinating peek into a creative mind that clearly understands the financials of what he’s doing. Click here to read the full story.

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Categories: career, creativity

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