Cirque du Soleil Is Buying Blue Man Group

Jul 06, 2017

Cirque du Soleil just got a little more colorful.

The Montreal, Canada-based live entertainment company has announced it has acquired Blue Man Productions, the theater group known for its tech- and music-infused acts and, of course, its performers' penchant for blue body paint.

The acquisition isn’t all that surprising, especially when you consider Cirque’s corporate owners. In 2015, private equity firm TPG bought a majority stake in the creative powerhouse, snapping it up for a reported $1.4 billion. Since then, TPG has sought to streamline Cirque’s processes. (An example: The circus no longer tests every piece of fabric used to sew its costumes.) It has also sought to capitalize on new areas of global growth, including a soon-to-be-launched "resident" show in China.

The Blue Man acquisition gives Cirque—and TPG—even more content to exploit abroad. The Canadian company has decades of experience bringing its shows to more than 130 cities around the world, and under TPG, it is making a more serious push into China in particular.

“People recognize Cirque’s brand and how unique of an art form it is,” says David Trujillo, a TPG partner and member of Cirque’s board. “But they tend to overlook the capabilities that they have in things like being able to tour globally and deal with visa issues and promoter relationships. There’s a real know-how there that not a lot of companies have.”

There is another reason the deal makes sense. Circuses and some performing companies have been in decline. Earlier this year, after a run of 146 years, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus announced that it would soon shut down. With increasing competition for customers' time and attention, getting people to shell out money to see live shows can be tricky. (It was especially tricky for traditional circuses, at least partially because of their controversial use of animals.) TPG's strategy is to turn Cirque into more of a platform play—utilizing the company's global infrastructure to take more and more shows to different countries at a faster pace. In this light, the Blue Man acquisition makes sense.

“We want to broaden our horizons, develop new forms of entertainment, reach out to new audiences and expand our own creative capabilities," Daniel Lamarre, CEO of Cirque du Soleil, said in a company press released issued today. “Our extensive marketing research...confirms that Blue Man Group is a strong ‘love brand’ with a solid fan base — something else our two brands have in common.”

TPG did not disclose the financial terms of the deal. But the firm's Trujillo says more acquisitions will soon follow. What remains to be seen now? Whether or not the PE firm and Cirque will find a more optimized supply chain for all that blue body paint.

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