In a continuing push to diversify its entertainment offerings, circus powerhouse Cirque du Soleil has acquired live entertainment company Blue Man Productions LLC for an undisclosed sum of money.

The Montreal-based circus group announced the deal on Thursday.

Best known for its Blue Man Group performances featuring bald percussionists covered in blue body paint, Blue Man Productions will add six permanent shows and two touring groups to Cirque du Soleil’s global entertainment empire.

“We want to broaden our horizons, develop new forms of entertainment, reach out to new audiences and expand our own creative capabilities. Today, we are taking a decisive step towards materializing these ambitions,” said Daniel Lamarre, president and CEO of Cirque du Soleil, in a press release.

Two years ago, Cirque du Soleil was acquired by private-equity firm TPG Capital with support from Fosun Capital Group and the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec for an estimated $1.5-billion. Since then it’s expanded its non-circus forms of entertainment, staging Broadway shows, creating multimedia exhibits for private companies and events, and even partnering with the National Football League to run a permanent NFL exhibit in Times Square, opening later this year.

The Blue Man Group, by contrast, is very much in the same vein as Cirque du Soleil’s traditional live performances. The companies even share similar long-shot origin stories. Cirque du Soleil was started in the 1980s by a group of friends organizing summer fairs in Baie-Saint-Paul, a small town north of Quebec City. The Blue Man Group grew out of street performances by three friends in late 1980s New York. Both have gone on to become multimillion-dollar businesses with permanent and touring shows in cities around the world.

“It makes perfect sense,” says Prof. Louis Patrick Leroux, head of the Montreal Working Group on Circus Research, and a professor at Concordia University. “What does Cirque offer? Huge, very polished entertainment. They also have an extremely well-oiled branding and touring capacity. It seems Blue Man falls within that same logic. … I think they’ll do extremely well within the larger organization.”

The move also suggests that Cirque du Soleil is on more a stable financial footing two years after the TPG deal, said Prof. Leroux.

“It had spiralled almost out of control just before the economic crisis in 2008 and 2009 and I think they learned a lot. Instead of just producing a new show every 18 months now they’re looking to the middle and long term,” he said.

Among other things, the acquisition will continue to solidify Cirque du Soleil’s grip on live entertainment in Las Vegas. The Blue Man Group has a permanent show at the Luxor Hotel and Casino, while Cirque operates seven permanent shows in the city.

As private companies, neither Cirque du Soleil nor Blue Man Productions have to make their financial results public. However, ratings agency Moody’s Investors Service reports that Cirque du Soleil’s revenue in 2016/17 was $791-million.

This year alone Cirque du Soleil will stage 18 shows around the world, and employ around 4,000 people including 1,300 performing artists. According to the press release, the Blue Man Group has performed in more than 20 countries and been seen by more than 35 million people since its formation in 1991.

The Globe and Mail
Published Thursday, Jul. 06, 2017 1:13PM EDT
Last updated Thursday, Jul. 06, 2017 9:54PM EDT