The Caisse de dépôt lost $ 228 million in the Cirque du Soleil adventure, the institution’s big boss, Charles Émond, revealed yesterday.
“It seemed obvious that this amount should be written off, so that’s what was done 100%,” said Mr. Émond yesterday.
The figure of $ 228 million, which had never been revealed, allows us to deduce that the institution paid more than $ 100 million to Guy Laliberté to acquire his remaining 10% stake in the Cirque. The transaction took place in February, just before the pandemic.
The Caisse invested $ 79 million in 2015 to acquire an initial 10% tranche of Cirque, then loaned the company $ 40 million last year.
The institution lost its stake in the Circus when it took refuge with its creditors in late June. Last month, the Circus rejected a takeover bid from the Caisse and its two other shareholders, TPG and Fosun, preferring a proposal from some lenders.
Mr. Émond made two thinly veiled criticisms yesterday of the creditors’ offer, led by Toronto-based Catalyst.
He first considered it important that a “strategic operator”, that is to say a company in the entertainment sector, be integrated into the future group of Cirque shareholders, which is not the case in the Catalyst’s current proposal. It should be remembered that Quebecor has put aside, for the moment, its efforts to invest in Cirque.
The CEO of the Caisse also maintained that the “Cirque 2.0” had to have a “reasonable” level of debt. However, under the Catalyst offer, Cirque’s debt would be much greater than that of the Caisse and the other shareholders.
“This is a company that may not be the best candidate for what is called high leverage,” said Charles Émond.
♦ It should be noted, however, that the Caisse itself guaranteed Cirque’s heavy indebtedness when it was acquired from Mr. Laliberté in 2015.