Blue Man Group joins the circus and gets acquired by Cirque du Soleil
Friday, July 7, 2017
by Sintia Radu | Washington Post
Cirque du Soleil, the Canadian global entertainment company famous for its flashy, circuslike shows announced Thursday that it had acquired the New York-based Blue Man Group, a stage production company known for the blue face paint its performers wear.
The move is the Montreal-based company’s first large acquisition as part of its strategy to diversify its portfolio and expand its international reach, particularly in China, where Cirque du Soleil says it will soon announce its first tour in seven cities and its first permanent show in Hangzhou in 2018.
“We are an organization that tries to diversify geographically, and China became a very important market for us,” Cirque du Soleil chief executive Daniel Lamarre said Friday. “And Blue Man are helping us to diversify our company because we are probably the only entertainment company that is touring in 450 cities around the world.”
Lamarre would not disclose the terms of the deal except to say that the sale price was in the range of tens of millions of dollars.
Talks about a sale have been going on for months, said Chris Wink, co-founder and a co-chief executive of Blue Man. Wink said Friday that Blue Man — with stage productions in North America, Europe and Asia — was looking for an international partner and more resources to expand worldwide. He said that, although Blue Man was already profitable, it was willing to give up its autonomy in favor of more capabilities and resources that it could use to target other markets.
“Being just on our own is hindering us from being able to do things that we could imagine or aspire to do,” Wink said. “In this day and age you need to be a global player.”
Cirque du Soleil will keep Blue Man as a separate brand and help it grow by leveraging Cirque du Soleil’s touring capabilities, the Canadian company said. “Each brand will keep its own authenticity and its own autonomy,” Lamarre said. “We want to grow Blue Man group by itself just as we want to grow Cirque du Soleil. But each creative team will be autonomous.”
Unlike the kind of theatrical acrobatic entertainment that the circus company is famous for — Cirque du Soleil says it has 18 shows that perform simultaneously — Blue Man shows are smaller and focus more on recognizable characters.
“From the very beginning, it wasn’t about blurring the successful brand and changing who Blue Man is,” Wink said. “The creative teams behind the shows will cross-pollinate and take advantage of their creativity and the know-how, but on stage we will keep the DNA intact.”
Blue Man Productions, the Blue Man Group’s company, will retain its current management after the merger, Lamarre said. Blue Man’s 500 or so employees involved in artistic production will join the Canadian company’s 4,000-member staff, while the administrative and finance staff might face contractions, he said.
“I’m very excited about the reaction of the industry,” Lamarre said of the deal. “It’s almost as if Blue Man group has crystallized the strategy of Cirque, and now everyone understands where we are going, and it makes a lot of sense.”