There’s a battle brewing for control of entertainment giant Cirque du Soleil, The Post has learned.
On Monday, the circus entertainer filed for bankruptcy protection in Canada, citing the coronavirus, which has forced it to cancel its shows around the world — leaving it unable to pay its debts. The company — known for its fire-eating, high-flying acrobatic shows — told the court it supports a plan for a group of investors led by David Bonderman’s TPG to buy it out of bankruptcy for $400 million.
But a group of creditors holding two-thirds of the senior loan — including Los Angeles Dodgers’ co-owner Todd Boehly — are gearing up to oppose that plan, as it gives TPG and other equity investors a controlling 55 percent stake while leaving them with a minority interest and mere pennies on the dollar for their loans.
The counteroffer, to be presented to the court on Tuesday, calls for a majority of the company’s $1.2 billion debt to be exchanged for control of the company, and for $375 million in new loans to help Cirque get back on its feet.
The deal would wipe out TPG current ownership while leaving Cirque with $675 million in debt.
TPG’s plan would leave Cirque with just $275 million in debt. But the creditors plan to argue that the TPG-led plan will value the entertainment giant at just $727 million, while their plan will value it at $1.275 billion, sources said.
The creditors are also privately balking at the notion of giving ownership back to the same investors who contributed to Cirque’s demise by overloading it with debt. TPG led the group of investors that bought Cirque in 2015 for $1.5 billion — leaving it indebted to the tune of $1.2 billion, where it stood half a decade later when the coronavirus hit.
Typically, bankruptcy judges don’t approve restructuring plans not supported by creditors holding a majority of the senior loans, sources said.
But TPG’s plan also includes a $200 million investment from the Quebec government in exchange for the company staying in Montreal and agreeing to hire back as many Québec-based workers as possible.
Cirque has been a source of pride for its hometown of Montreal since it was formed as a roaming group of street performers led by Guy Laliberté in the 1980s.
The creditors are also expected to vow to keep Cirque in Montreal.
Driving the dueling bids is the expectation that Cirque will continue to be a show-stopper once the pandemic ends.
The company even boasted about its pre-COVID-19 success in its bankruptcy filing Monday. “Over the past few years, Cirque du Soleil has been responsible for the majority of the top 10 live shows in Las Vegas … accounting for almost half of the total Las Vegas box office sales.”