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Cirque du Soleil files for bankruptcy protection

Cirque du Soleil Entertainment Group, the world’s largest producer of contemporary circus and other touring entertainment shows, has filed for bankruptcy protection in Canada after more than three months of “zero revenues” as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Montreal-based Cirque du Soleil announced yesterday (29 June) it has applied to restructure its business under Canada’s CCCA (Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act – a process that shields it from creditors, similar to administration in the UK or chapter-11 bankruptcy in the US). Its application will heard today by the Superior Court of Quebec.

The announcement follows a particularly torrid quarter for Cirque, which announced thousands of temporary lay-offs in the early days of the pandemic.

Cirque says it has entered into a court-supervised purchase agreement with shareholders, including Texas-based TPG Capital and China’s Fosun Capital Group, to establish two funds, worth US$20 million, to provide relief to laid-off employees and contractors. (Some 3,480 of the more than 4,500 employees furloughed in March are expected to lose their jobs permanently.)

The ‘sponsors’, which also include state-owned investment company Quebec Deposit and Investment Fund (CDPQ), will additionally inject $300m worth of liquidity in order to restart the restructured business.

“I look forward to rebuilding our operations and coming together once again”

“For the past 36 years, Cirque du Soleil has been a highly successful and profitable organisation. However, with zero revenues since the forced closure of all of our shows due to Covid-19, management had to act decisively to protect the company’s future,” comments Daniel Lamarre, president and CEO of Cirque du Soleil Entertainment Group.

Subject to the Superior Court’s approval, the sponsors will also serve as the “stalking horse”, or reserve bidders, in a sale and investment solicitation process (‘SISP’) of Cirque’s assets.

“The purchase agreement and SISP provide a path for Cirque to emerge from CCAA protection as a stronger company. The robust commitment from the sponsors – which includes additional funds to support our impacted employees, contractors and critical partners, all of whom are important to Cirque’s return – reflects our mutual belief in the power and long-term potential of our brand,” continues Lamarre.

“I look forward to rebuilding our operations and coming together to once again create the magical spectacle that is Cirque du Soleil for our millions of fans worldwide.”

 


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Updated: AEG buys out AXS co-owners to take full ownership

Live entertainment powerhouse AEG has taken full control of its ticketing business AXS from co-owners TPG Capital and Rockbridge Growth Equity, as first reported by Billboard.

AEG, a founding partner in the ticketing platform, previously held a 38% stake with private-equity firms TPG Capital – the majority owner of Creative Artists Agency and owner of Cirque du Soleil Entertainment Group – and Dan Gilbert’s Rockbridge Growth Equity together holding the remaining 62%.

AEG established AXS in partnership with Outbox Technologies in 2011, following the merger between Ticketmaster and Live Nation a year earlier.

In 2015, AXS merged with ticketing company Veritix, owned by Rockbridge’s Gilbert.

In 2018, the Wall Street Journal reported that TPG and Rockbridge were exploring options to sell their stake in AXS. It was believed the stake could go for as much as US$250 million.

The purchase comes after months of negotiations, with bids by CTS Eventim and ticketing startup Rival falling through. LionTree Advisors acted as financial advisor to Cirque Du Soleil, Outbox Holdings and Flash Seats in connection with the transaction.

“In just over eight years, AXS now sells nearly 50 million tickets annually around the world and this acquisition positions both AEG and AXS for continued growth,” says Dan Beckerman, president and chief executive of AEG.

“As a team owner, music promoter and venue owner/operator, ticketing is core to AEG’s business and this transaction allows us to more closely align our global asset portfolio,” adds Beckerman.

“AEG’s significant investment is a clear endorsement of our business strategy, technical expertise and growth potential”

“As an AXS client, we are focused on delivering innovation and product development that enhances the fan experience and creates opportunities to integrate data and generate new revenue streams for all AXS clients.”

Bryan Perez, chief executive of AXS comments that the transaction will allow the ticketing company “to further expand our footprint and product offerings.”

“AEG’s significant investment is a clear endorsement of our business strategy, technical expertise and growth potential,” continues Perez.

“Since 2011, our mission has been to transform the ticketing industry through innovative products, delivering the right ticket to the right fan and the right price and this transaction provides us the opportunity to accelerate that vision globally.”

AXS provides ticketing services to over 167 professional sports teams around the world and over 300 venues. The company is the official ticketing partner for venues including London’s O2 Arena (20,000-cap.) and SSE Arena, Wembley (12,500-cap.), the Los Angeles Staples Center (21,000-cap.), New York’s PlayStation Theatre (2,100-cap.) and the Target Centre in Minneapolis (19,356-cap.).

The company, which rolled out its resale solution in the UK in April, has been the official resale ticketing partner for AEG in North America since 2018.

AXS also recently expanded into Japan, where it is a joint venture partner with Yahoo Japan Corporation and Avex Entertainment in Passrevo, the ticketing entity behind Yahoo! Tickets.

For a comprehensive review of the state of the global ticketing industry, with in-depth explorations of recent consolidation in the sector, new ticketing tech and individual country markets, read IQ’s International Ticketing Yearbook 2019, available here.

 


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BookMyShow brings total investment to $225m with TPG backing

As predicted in January, BookMyShow, India’s biggest ticket seller, has closed a new round of funding, bringing total investment in the company since 2007 to US$224.5m.

The series-D round, worth $100m, was led by investment fund TPG Growth – whose recent investments include Africa’s Trace and China’s Moretickets – and also included participation from existing investors.

“They bring with them extensive wealth of experience across the global media and entertainment sector,” says Ashish Hemrajani (pictured), founder and CEO of BookMyShow owner Bigtree Entertainment, “which would be instrumental as we look to accelerate our growth plans in this space.”

“BookMyShow continues to build upon its leadership position”

According to the International Ticketing Yearbook 2017, BookMyShow has dominated the online market for film tickets in India for a number of years, and has recently been placing an increased emphasis on concerts and other live content. Film ticketing is believed to comprise around half of its business, with live events and sports contributing 35%, and advertising the remainder.

TPG, the US private-equity firm behind TPG Growth, is the majority owner of Creative Artists Agency. It also has investments in Spotify, Cirque du Soleil, Airbnb and Uber.

“BookMyShow continues to build upon its leadership position as the default digital entertainment destination,” comments Karan Sharma of Avendus Capital, which advised BookMyShow on the fundraising. “They have continued to expand the company’s horizon as they rise up the ladder and have successfully advanced into newer entertainment verticals.”

 


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China’s Moretickets raises another $60m

Chinese discount ticket resale platform Moretickets has raised a further US$60 million in a series-C funding round led by CAA investor TPG Capital.

TPG Growth – the middle-market/growth capital division of TPG Capital, the majority owner of Creative Artists Agency – joins Hillhouse Capital and existing investors DCM, Matrix Partners, Blue Lake Capital and Nanshan Capital in the investment round, which brings Moretickets’ total funding to $100m.

The company, then called Ferris Wheel Ticketing, raised $15m in a series-B round in June 2017, with a further $25m (series B+) following in October.

According to China Money Network, Ferris Wheel/Moretickets operates in 369 cities in China, processing monthly sales worth over ¥100m (US$15m), although 90% of its tickets sell for under face value.

“Concerts, sporting events and original theatre have become an integral part of China’s consumer culture”

Matrix Partners, Nanshan Capital and DCM are also investors in another Chinese secondary ticketing site, Tking.

TPG, in addition to CAA, is the majority owner of Cirque du Soleil and, most recently, African entertainment brand Trace (through TPG Growth), and an investor in Spotify, Airbnb, Uber and Vice. It is also believed to be in talks to acquire a stake in BookMyShow, India’s leading entertainment ticketing platform.

“Through integrated technological knowhow and deep expertise in online event ticketing, Moretickets has been able to create a quality service product offering and secure its industry leading position in terms of scale, reputation, industry penetration, user experience and operational efficiency,” says Chang Sun (pictured), TPG’s managing partner in China.

“Live programmes such as concerts, sporting events and original theatre have become an integral part of China’s consumer culture, and we are very excited to be starting this new relationship with Moretickets as they look to further capitalise on this growing industry.”

 


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BookMyShow in investment talks with TPG

India’s biggest ticketing firm, BookMyShow, is believed to be in talks to raise US$50–60 million in investment from US private-equity fund TPG Growth.

TPG Growth – the middle-market/growth capital division of TPG Capital, the majority owner of Creative Artists Agency (CAA) – holds stakes in Airbnb, Spotify, Uber, film production company STX, guitar-maker Fender and Papa John’s pizza, among other investments. Earlier this week it invested an undisclosed sum in African entertainment conglomerate Trace.

According to Indian business paper Mint, TPG is in “advanced” talks with BookMyShow parent Bigtree Entertainment, which has raised close to $125m since 2012. “BookMyShow has been in the market for some months to raise a new round of funding,” says a source. “The talks with TPG are at an advanced stage.”

“BookMyShow has been in the market for some months”

“TPG is looking to pick up a minority stake of under 10%,” they added, while another suggested TPG values the company at closer to $750m.

IQ has contacted TPG for comment.

BookMyShow’s last funding round, in July 2016, was led by US venture-capital firm Stripes Group, and raised more than $80m in new investment.

According to the International Ticketing Yearbook 2017, BookMyShow has dominated the online market for film tickets for a number of years, and has recently been placing an increased emphasis on concerts and other live content. Film ticketing is believed to comprise around half of its business, with live events and sports contributing 35% and advertising the remainder.

 


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TPG Growth invests in African music biz

TPG Growth, the middle-market/growth capital division of Creative Artists Agency (CAA) majority owner TPG Capital, is to acquire a majority stake in Trace, an leading African urban media brand whose portfolio includes TV channels, radio stations, a music streaming service and several live music events.

Alongside Evolution Media, CAA’s investment arm, and Satya Capital, a London-based, Africa-focused investment firm, TPG Growth will become the majority owner of Trace, with the company’s co-founder and management team holding the remaining stake. Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.

Trace, the leading youth media brand in sub-Saharan Africa, owns and operates 30 digital and mobile services, 21 pay-TV channels and seven FM radio stations, broadcasting more than 400 concerts and other music programming annually. It also hosts its own talent competition, Trace Music Star, a music awards show, Trace Awards, and music festival Trace Live, which was held at La Place, the hip-hop cultural centre, in Paris for the first time in June 2017.

“We are well-positioned to build on our success and accelerate our transformation into the leading global afro-urban digital entertainment group”

“By partnering with TPG Growth, a global investor known for its ability to grow and scale businesses, we are well-positioned to build on our success and accelerate our transformation into the leading global afro-urban digital entertainment group,” says the France-headquartered company’s co-founder, chairman and CEO, Olivier Laouchez. “We will leverage our unique assets and TPG Growth’s deep experience with groundbreaking entertainment and technology businesses to launch ‘episode two’ of Trace.”

“The African music and entertainment industry is dynamic and has experienced huge growth in the last decade, driven by the booming youth population and rapid adoption of digital technology,” adds Yemi Lalude, managing partner at TPG Africa.

“We are very excited to help grow the Trace brand not only in Africa but worldwide.”

TPG Growth’s existing investments in Africa include agricultural data business Gro Intelligence, Moroccan private school network Ecoles Yassamine and Nigerian used-car firm Frontier Car Group.

 


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