Guy Laliberté, founder of Cirque de Soleil, a life like in the movies

Friday, 15 March 2024

I don’t even know where to begin to introduce this personality whose vision and ambition transformed the circus from a popular form of entertainment that everyone can enjoy into an art of entertainment and creation. Guy Laliberté has shown the world a complex personality, from circus visionary to philanthropist, space tourist, poker player and billionaire now developing investments in art, technology and entertainment. Find his story below, one like in the movies.

Guy Laliberté

The years of youth

Canadian, born on September 2, 1959, Guy Laliberte was drawn to the world of circus from an early age. As a child his parents took him to the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, an experience that left its mark on him.

After school he went on a trip to Europe. He made his money playing the accordion, but also learned to walk on stilts and swallow flames. On his return to Canada he became a street performer. He joined the circus troupe Les Échassiers and performed in Canadian cities.

How Cirque de Soleil was born

The opportunity of a lifetime arose in 1984, when Canada celebrated the 450th anniversary of its discovery by Jacques Cartier. Then, together with Gilles Ste-Croix, a Canadian entrepreneur, he took a $1 million grant from the Canadian government and created Cirque de Soleil (Circus of the Sun). The show presented at this event was a success. Encouraged by this triumph, the following year (1985) he toured North America with his troupe. Everything grew at a dizzying pace, and in the 1990s he ended up playing in Europe and Asia.

Cirque de Soleil and Las Vegas

The real confirmation of his and Cirque de Soleil’s success came with the staging of the first permanent Las Vegas show, Mystère, at the Treasure Island Casino in Las Vegas. The success was huge…

In the following years, Cirque de Soleil presented permanent shows in Tokyo (Tokyo Disney Resort) and Orlando (Walt Disney World). It established its headquarters in Montreal and regional offices in Amsterdam, Las Vegas and Singapore.

Guy Laliberté’s vision

Each of Cirque du Soleil’s productions was unique, but they all shared the basic elements of Laliberté’s distinctive vision of the circus. There were no animal acts or star performers and no talking. Instead, the shows were built around an imaginative fusion of varied acrobatic and artistic disciplines culled from around the world. The shows were known for their musical scores, simple but captivating plots; fantastic costumes and special effects; so much so that the spirit of the show fascinated you. In 1998, O, the famous Cirque de Soleil production hosted by the Bellagio casino in Las Vegas, was performed in, on and over a large pool of water. , another Cirque de Soleil show, depicted the fiery adventure of twins that relied heavily on martial arts; and the touring production Corteo was a festive parade that also examined the contradictions embodied by the clown character.

One Drop Foundation

In 2007, Laliberté announced the official launch of the One Drop Foundation, an organisation whose aim is to make water accessible to people all over the world. The Foundation is funded by Laliberté, the Royal Bank of Canada and the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation and is closely associated with Oxfam and Cirque du Soleil.

Guy Laliberté and his journey into space

In September 2009, Laliberté became Canada’s first space tourist. He travelled aboard the Russian Soyuz spacecraft and also visited the International Space Station. He said his flight into space was dedicated to raising awareness about water issues and the dwindling access to this resource for much of Earth’s population.

Guy Laliberté and poker

Laliberté is a great lover of poker. He started playing high-stakes online cash games and live tournaments for recreation around 2006. In April 2007, he finished fourth in the World Poker Tour Season Five event hosted by the Bellagio in Las Vegas where he won $696,220. He also played on GSN’s High Stakes Poker Season 4 and participated in Poker After Dark Season 4 alongside Tom Dwan and Phil Hellmuth. He was also known to frequent the highest stakes games on Full Tilt Poker.

In 2011, Laliberté announced the Big One, a $1 million buy-in tournament that was featured at the 2012 World Series of Poker. A portion of the prize money was donated to Laliberté’s philanthropic organization, the One Drop Foundation. 48 players participated in the tournament, and Antonio Esfandiari won the $18,346,673 first-place prize. The tournament raised $5,333,328 for his foundation.

Cirque de Soleil in figures

Cirque du Soleil has performed in front of more than 180 million spectators in over 450 cities, including Tokyo, Hong Kong, London, Paris, Munich, Amsterdam, Berlin, San Francisco and Las Vegas, in 60 countries. It employs around 2,100 people of 40 different nationalities.

Guy Laliberté and the Cirque du Soleil exit

In 2015, Laliberté sold 90% of Cirque du Soleil to US private equity firm TPG Capital and Chinese investment group Fosun, but kept 10% of the company. But in 2020, it sold its remaining 10% stake in Cirque du Soleil to Quebec pension fund CDPQ. According to Forbes his fortune is currently estimated at around $1.2 billion! With the money he earned, he founded the company Lune Rouge in 2017, which develops and invests in projects in arts, technology and entertainment.

Guy Laliberté defines the classic story of a man who started from the bottom and achieved everything. A unique life story that has influenced mankind and in turn inspired other success stories, and this is what entitles him to be considered a great personality of Las Vegas and the world.

Sources: thecanadianencyclopedia.ca, Britannica.com, ville.montreal.qc.ca, Wikipedia, Forbes





Author: Editor

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