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Cirque du Soleil shakes up executive staff

Updated December 1, 2021 - 10:27 pm

Cirque du Soleil is under new ownership. The company has now shaken up its top-level executive team.

Stéphane Lefebvre, Cirque’s chief operating officer for the past year, has stepped in as the company’s CEO and president. Daniel Lamarre, who has held that position since 2001, is now the company’s executive vice-chairman.

Lefebvre now will run the company’s day-to-day operations, including Cirque’s five Las Vegas Strip productions and the incoming show at New York-New York in spring/summer 2022.

“I have spent quite a bit of time in Las Vegas in the last month, and it is my intention to continue to work with our team there,” Lefebvre said Monday in a Zoom chat alongside Lamarre from the company’s Montreal headquarters. “I plan on being very present with our team in Las Vegas.”

Lefebvre has been conferring with Cirque Senior Vice President Eric Grilly and Vice President of Operations Matt Nickel in Vegas. The company’s next planned production is a New York-themed show at New York-New York, in the former “Zumanity” theater.

Aside from that production, there are no formal plans for a new Cirque show on the Strip in 2022. As Lefebvre said, “In the near term, we’ll continue working on certain front-end marketing initiatives that we have launched in this year, together with MGM, to help support our growth in the box office.” By the time the NY-NY show launches, Cirque will present five shows in MGM Resorts International hotels. “Mystere,” at Phil Ruffin’s Treasure Island, is the lone exception.

“I will be continuing to nurture the relationships with our great partners MGM Resorts, AEG, Disney, Vidanta (the entertainment and hospitality company out of Mexico that co-produces the show “Joya”),” Lamarre said of his new role, which is a full-time position. “I will also be involved in new business development.”

Lefebvre has worked largely behind the scenes for Cirque over the past five years, helping to engineer the company’s acquisition of Blue Man Group in 2017, VStar Entertainment in 2018, and The Works Entertainment in 2019. He and Lamarre worked closely to achieve the relaunch of Cirque’s operations in Las Vegas, and also the well-received new show, “Drawn To Life,” a Cirque-Disney partnership at Disney World in Orlando.

Lamarre recommended Lefebrve’s promotion, which was approved by the Cirque board of directors during a meeting in Las Vegas in September. Cirque was purchased, and essentially rescued, by a group of investors headed up by Toronto’s Catalyst Capital Group Inc. That deal was finalized in August 2020.

Asked if realigning the company’s executive structure was a condition of the purchase, Lamarre said, “Not at all, and by the way, this was my recommendation. If I would have decided to remain as a CEO, I would. But my decision was to make sure that we ensured the stability of the company for the next 10 years. As a matter of fact, the board has insisted that I remain as executive vice chairman.”

Lamarre said he’s most proud of his role in stabilizing the company through the shutdown of all of its operations in March 2020. He has a book coming out in January, “Balancing Acts,” chronicling his time with the company. And his hand-picked successor is a prominent, new power player on the Las Vegas entertainment scene.

“I’ve taken up this challenge with a dose of humility, because this company has been through such a rough period,” Lefebrve said. “We’ve been in the trenches these last 18 months. Thank God, we can count on the amazing team in Vegas that supported the relaunch of the operations. I certainly feel privileged now, just having seen people’s reaction to coming back into theaters and seeing our shows.

“That makes me feel extremely excited about the the future.”

John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His “PodKats!” podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at jkatsilometes@reviewjournal.com. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

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