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Private equity-backed Cirque du Soleil inks deal for Blue Man Group as it looks to expand beyond circus

Key Points
  • Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
  • The Canadian production company and its private equity owner TPG have a list of other acquisition targets.
We're going to become a global leader of entertainment: Cirque du Soleil CEO

Acrobats and bald drummers will combine in a deal signed in blue ink.

Cirque du Soleil said Thursday that it agreed to acquire Blue Man Productions, the first purchase in its quest to expand beyond the circus arts. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

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

Lamarre told CNBC's "Closing Bell" Thursday that the deal was a "strategy of diversification" for the famous circus company.

"We have the opportunity to have a new brand that we are going to bring to its full potential around the world," Lamarre said. "Cirque du Soleil is an amazing marketing and distribution machine around the world, and the Blue Man Group deserve the support of an organization like ours to continue to grow around the world."

The ambitions were put in motion two years ago when TPG, a $73 billion private-equity firm, took a majority stake. At the time, The Wall Street Journal reported that the investment valued Cirque du Soleil at $1.5 billion.

Fosun Industrial Holdings, a Chinese investment firm, and Caisse de depot et placement du Quebec, a Canadian pension fund, also took a stake in Cirque du Soleil at the time TPG did.

TPG owns stakes in a variety of entertainment brands including Creative Arts Agency, Spotify and Univision. TPG's growth-investing arm also co-founded STX Entertainment, which produced movies such as "Edge of Seventeen" and "Bad Moms."

With the acquisition of Blue Man Group, Cirque du Soleil is looking to expand its audience pool. Blue Man Group currently has six productions stationed in New York, Boston, Las Vegas, Chicago, Orlando and Berlin and two touring productions roving around North America and the world. The company was owned by its co-founders Chris Wink and Phil Stanton and the GF Capital Private Equity Fund.

Cirque du Soleil's audience is still demonstrably larger, with 18 shows being simultaneously performed.

With the additional Blue Man Group productions added to Cirque du Soleil's shows, Lamarre hopes to grow the circus company into a "global leader of entertainment."

"It's a big, big shift, and it has been supported by the Blue Man Group," Lamarre said. "What it means is that now, we're no longer only a circus company, but now, were going to become a global leader of entertainment. That's the goal we are pursuing."

It is just the first deal being contemplated. Cirque du Soleil and TPG have compiled a list of additional acquisition targets to add to the entertainment portfolio, two people with knowledge of the matter said.

Wink and Stanton, along with Matt Goldman, built the image of the bald and blue performer that they named "Blue Man," evoking the word "human," according to the company's website. Their performances utilize bright colors, lights, technology and props to create percussive sounds and dance moves.

That compares with Cirque du Soleil productions, which incorporate stunts and acrobatics into various storylines.

Goldman Sachs served as the advisor to Blue Man Group.

— CNBC's Rachel Cao contributed to this report.

Cirque du Soleil to acquire Blue Man Productions
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