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Quebec premier appeals to Cirque founder to keep head office in Montreal if sold

QUEBEC – Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard issued an appeal Thursday to the founder of the Cirque du soleil to keep its head office in Montreal.

Couillard told reporters in Quebec City that Guy Laliberte is one of Quebec’s great entrepreneurs and the Cirque is a huge source of pride for the province.

The premier said it’s not only important that the international headquarters and its almost 1,500 workers stay in Montreal, but that the Cirque’s creative activities should also remain in the city.

“I’m certain that, as a Quebecer, he would be quite sensitive to that,” Couillard said.

“Let’s remember the history of how the Cirque du soleil got started,” he added. “It was the government of Quebec at the time that supported him — taxpayers.”

The Globe and Mail reported that bidders have been given until next week to submit offers to purchase Laliberte’s controlling stake in the Cirque.

The newspaper cited sources as saying Laliberte has agreed to sell all but 10 per cent of his share.

During question period in the national assembly, Parti Quebecois leadership candidate Pierre Peladeau described the Cirque as “Quebec’s international calling card.”

He also said the government has known for months that Laliberte intended to sell off a huge chunk of his shares, but that it has remained silent.

Peladeau wanted to know what was being done to keep the Cirque in the hands of Quebecers.

Jacques Daoust, the minister of economy and innovation, replied that a Quebec group has been involved “for a while”.

“I can say that confidentially, there are Quebecers who are serious (and) who are at the heart of this transaction,” he added.

Laliberte owns 90 per cent of the internationally renowned Cirque, with the rest controlled by investors in Dubai.