MONTREAL - The Cirque du Soleil has signed a deal to sell a majority stake in the famed circus group to U.S. private equity firm TPG for an undisclosed price.Cirque founder Guy Laliberte will maintain a stake in the Montreal-based company and continue to provide strategic and creative input.Chinese investment firm Fosun and Quebec pension fund manager the Caisse de depot will hold minority stakes."After 30 years building the Cirque du Soleil brand, we have now found the right partners in TPG, Fosun and the Caisse to take Cirque du Soleil forward to the next stage in its evolution as a company founded on the conviction that the arts and business, together, can contribute to making a better world," Laliberte said in a statement Monday.Caisse de depot CEO Michael Sabia said it is partnering with Cirque as it seeks to conquer new markets."We are pleased that this new era of growth will be directed from Montreal, the Cirque's decision-making and creative centre, under the direction of Daniel Lamarre as CEO," he said in a statement.The agreement will also see Quebec businessman Mitch Garber become chairman of the company.TPG says its experience building brands like J. Crew and Neiman Marcus, along with its strong media and entertainment relationships, will provide Cirque with new revenue opportunities.The new owners plan to expand Cirque's presence in China. They also want to expand third-party licensing deals, digital media and ticket sales."We are inspired by Guy Laliberte's imagination and vision, and look forward to working with him and his talented team, as well as the vibrant Montreal creative community," said David Trujillo, a TPG partner.The sale is expected to close in the third quarter.The buyers have agreed to terms that will ensure Montreal — home of about 1,400 employees — remains Cirque's international creative and management headquarters.Since beginning in 1984, Cirque has played to almost 160 million spectators in more than 330 cities in some 48 countries.
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