Cirque du Soleil lays off 95 per cent of its staff

The Cirque du Soleil is shuttering virtually all of its operations, effective immediately.

Mid-day Thursday, Cirque du Soleil CEO Daniel Lamarre announced to staff that the company is laying off 95 per cent of its employees. With Thursday’s decision, the Cirque will lay off 4,679 employees, keeping just 240 staffers to keep up basic operations, continue tour planning and ticket sales for shows scheduled for later this year and in 2021. The Cirque will prepare for rehiring if and when productions are allowed to return to the stage.

On Wednesday, influential American bond credit rating company Moody’s downgraded its rating of Cirque du Soleil, saying the outlook is negative.

In an interview Thursday afternoon, Lamarre said he had no other choice given that the company has had to cancel all 44 of its shows around the world due to fears related to the COVID-19 crisis.

“It happened within a week … we were shut down by cities and countries around the world,” Lamarre said. “As we speak today, there is no revenue coming in for the company and I don’t know when it will come back, which is why we’re doing what we are doing. We have laid off most of our employees and we will keep just a small fraction of employees to be able, whenever the situation is stabilized, to come back in a short period of time.”

Of the 1,300 employees who work at the head office in Montreal, 1,100 have been laid off. On Monday, Lamarre announced that 2,600 staffers and performers around the world were being sent home. Of the 240 employees still at work, 200 are at head office in Montreal, with another 40 still employed around the world, including 30 in Las Vegas.

Lamarre believes the Cirque will survive and is hoping the provincial and federal governments can help.

“I certainly hope (that the Cirque survives),” he said. “We are in communication with the government. I have been talking a lot with (Quebec Minister of Economy Pierre Fitzgibbon) … I’m working on two fronts. On one hand, I’m working with the government to make sure that I can have some support … and it’s coming from Investissement Québec. They’re the one that will help companies, so that’s one front. The other front is we have the Caisse de dépôt, which is a very important shareholder and they’re also very supportive of how they can help us.”

{ SOURCE: Brendan Kelly, Montreal Gazette }