MONTREAL — In the light of recent geopolitical tensions in Saudi Arabia, Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberte has expressed some discomfort with the troop’s performance in that country on Sept. 23.
During a meeting with the press on Thursday to unveil details around his most recent project, Lune Rouge, the businessman was careful to point out that he no longer holds decision-making power in this company.
“I’m a partner…but I do not make those decisions anymore,” said Laliberte. “Yes, it does something to me, but it’s not me who decides.”
The Cirque show took place before the kingdom became the target of harsh criticism from members of the international community for the alleged murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi at a consulate in Istanbul, Turkey.
Nonetheless, the troupe’s performance, which took place on Saudi National Day, came in the midst of a diplomatic quarrel between Ottawa and Riyadh — which, among other things, provoked the expulsion of Canada’s ambassador by the kingdom.
Laliberte was cautious when asked to comment, saying it was “difficult” because of the presence of “old friends” in the company whom he did not want to criticize.
“I’m sure that in the current context Cirque must be uncomfortable because (the deal was reached) at a time when it seemed that things were going in the right direction (in Saudi Arabia),” he said. “At some point, do you make a decision to withdraw or not? It’s not my choice.”
In 2015, Laliberte sold 60 per cent of his stake in Cirque du Soleil to U.S. investment firm TPG Capital and 20 per cent to Fosun Capital Group, a Chinese firm. The Caisse de depot et placement du Quebec secured a 10 per cent interest, the same amount that the founder retains.
The businessman is always involved in “creative thinking” within the company, he said.
Cirque du Soleil did not respond to emails sent by The Canadian Press on Thursday.