Former MGM Resorts CEO Jim Murren Named to Cirque du Soleil Board After Company Sold

Posted on: November 25, 2020, 01:55h. 

Last updated on: November 25, 2020, 02:13h.

Cirque du Soleil is no longer in bankruptcy after creditors moved to take ownership of the Canada-headquartered circus operator. And with the takeover comes two new board members, one being former MGM Resorts CEO Jim Murren.

Cirque du Soleil Las Vegas show
Cirque du Soleil has new owners and board members, as the circus revamps for its post-COVID-19 return. (Image: Fox Business)

A group of lenders, led by Catalyst Capital Group, a private investment firm based in Toronto, has assumed control of the company. The lenders exited Cirque from bankruptcy through Canada’s Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA) and Chapter 15 in the United States.

The closing of this recapitalization marks a significant milestone for Cirque du Soleil, as it provides the Company with a solid foundation for a successful relaunch,” a release on the ownership reorganization explains.

Cirque du Soleil’s high-wire spectacles dove into debt as a result of COVID-19 shutting down entertainment around the world. Cirque suspended each of its 44 shows worldwide this year, and furloughed 95 percent of its 4,679 employees. In June, the show operator filed for bankruptcy protection.

Cirque’s shows in Las Vegas at the time of the shutdown:

  • Michael Jackson: One — Mandalay Bay
  • The Beatles Love — The Mirage
  • Ka — MGM Grand
  • Zumanity — New York-New York
  • O — Bellagio
  • Mystere — TI

Las Vegas Mainstay

For many travelers to Las Vegas, a trip wouldn’t be complete without taking in a Cirque du Soleil show. MGM Resorts, the largest operator of Strip casinos, has long been an official partner of the circus production firm.

The new Cirque leadership will have plenty of Las Vegas knowledge by way of its new co-chairman of the board. Murren enters the Cirque boardroom with more than three decades of executive leadership in the Nevada gaming industry.

Murren was CEO of MGM from 2008 through March of 2020. He resigned from the casino giant to head Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak’s (D) COVID-19 Response, Relief and Recovery Task Force. He remains chairman of that body.

As a company with global opportunities and the ability to grow quickly, it is critical to Cirque’s successful expansion — and to its customers and partners — that we continuously execute on the right strategies,” Murren declared.

Murren says he’s known Cirque President and CEO Daniel Lamarre — who will remain in that role under the new ownership — for many years.

Gabriel de Alba will co-chair the board with Murren. De Alba is the managing director and partner at Catalyst. “I am very pleased to co-chair the Board with Jim Murren, whose leadership and knowledge of the industry is unparalleled.”

Catalyst’s investment portfolio includes Gateway Casinos & Entertainment, which owns and operates 18 casinos in British Columbia and Alberta.

Circus Shakeup

New York-New York announced last week that “Zumanity” will not return. The adult-themed show has been in residence at the Strip casino resort since 2003.

MGM says its partnership remains strong with Cirque du Soleil, and that its other four shows will return once possible and permitted by the state.

A Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted earlier this year found that only four in 10 people will attend a concert event before a COVID-19 vaccine is widely available.