Cirque du Soleil sets sights on kids’ market with Paw Patrol

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CIRQUE DU SOLEIL Entertainment Group’s chief executive officer says he’ll be a hero with his grandchildren after he acquired VStar Entertainment Group, the production company behind the live tour of PAW Patrol — a popular children’s cartoon about a pack of search-and-rescue dogs.

The Canadian company best known for its circus performances, purchased Minneapolis-based VStar and its Pompano Beach, Florida-based subsidiary Cirque Dreams in a move to expand its audience to children.

“We reach out to families through our shows, but we have never targeted kids specifically. And we saw the success that VStar had with PAW Patrol,” CEO Daniel Lamarre said in an interview. “My grandkids love it, so I will be a hero with my grandkids when I tell them.”

The VStar deal is part of a expansion into new markets for the Montreal-based company, which now offers performances on cruise ships and in malls, and recently launched NFL Experience in Times Square to allow audiences to immerse themselves in a simulated football game.

VStar — a live entertainment company with a track record for producing children and family shows based on brands from Nickelodeon and Spin Master, such as PAW Patrol — will help Cirque du Soleil enter what Lamarre said is a multi-billion dollar market. They also gain a team of 150 producers and marketers between VStar and Cirque Dreams.

While he wouldn’t disclose the price of the acquisition, Lamarre said that the deal will add an additional two million tickets to the 13 million that Cirque du Soleil sells globally, and is comparable to the two million tickets that last year’s Blue Man Productions acquisition was estimated to add.

The deal puts Cirque de Soleil in third place in the live entertainment industry after Live Nation Entertainment Inc. and Anschutz Entertainment Group Inc. as the circus arts company seeks to diversify its production and expand globally, Lamarre said.

“Which, in terms of position, is great because we think there is room for someone to consolidate the live entertainment market,” Lamarre said. “And we’re seeing ourselves as that consolidator.”

This is the second acquisition for the company since TPG, the San Francisco and Fort Worth, Texas-based private equity firm acquired Cirque du Soleil in 2015 in a deal that Moody’s Investors Service Inc. valued at $1.5 billion. — Bloomberg