- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 7, 2008

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) | Government-controlled investment firms in Dubai said Wednesday they acquired a 20 percent stake in the international circus touring company Cirque du Soleil.

Property developer Nakheel and investment company Istithmar World Capital did not say how much they paid for their share of the group, which began performing in Quebec in 1984 and today is a mainstay of theaters in Las Vegas and the Far East.

The agreement keeps control of the Montreal entertainment company in the hands of founder Guy Laliberte, putting to rest for now speculation that the troupe would be sold outright.

“This partnership is the best of both worlds for me and my management team,” Mr. Laliberte said in a joint statement with Nakheel and Istithmar. “We can keep control of our creative challenges and operations while accelerating our growth doing projects all over the world.”

Nakheel and Istithmar are part of Dubai World, a diversified holding company owned by the government of Dubai.

Nakheel, one of Dubai’s biggest developers, and Cirque du Soleil agreed in May to build a theater on Palm Jumeira, a massive palm-shaped island housing development Nakheel is building in the Persian Gulf. The 1,800-seat facility is expected to house a permanent Cirque du Soleil show beginning in summer 2011.

Istithmar Chief Executive Officer David Jackson said the deal represented the company’s first involving live entertainment, an area of investment he called “key to our media focus.”

More than 100,000 visitors attended a monthlong run of a Cirque du Soleil performance in Dubai last year, the companies said.

Dubai World had an indirect interest in Cirque du Soleil’s success even before Wednesday’s deal was announced. The company owns a minority stake in casino operator MGM Mirage Inc., which operates Las Vegas hotels that host the circus’ shows.

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