REV: OCTOBER 15, 2002
THOMAS J. DELONG
Cirque du Soleil
Murielle Cantin dragged her suitcases through the lobby of the hotel. It was one of the nicer hotels in Rio, but she missed her own bed, her own home back in Montreal, Canada. As casting director for Cirque du Soleil, Cantin was on the road for weeks, even months at a time, trying to find the best talent from the far reaches of the globe. Some of her artistic advisors were urging her to add Peru to this trip because they had scouted out some promising performers. Cantin considered whether she should make a detour to Peru. Had she seen enough artists already? Even if there were good possibilities in Peru, was she fresh anymore to evaluate them? Could she trust someone else to go and evaluate them in her stead? Cirque used to need 50 new artists every two years. Now it needed 100 artists every year. How would it handle the growth and keep the shows and the staff fresh? How would it keep the magic? Cantin wondered whether the touring performers felt as weary on the road as she felt now.
Cirque du Soleil was formed in 1984 by a troupe of street performers known as “Le Club des Talons Hauts” (The High-Heels Club), which had earlier founded the first street performers’ festival in a small town outside Quebec City. Some members of the original group were still active at Cirque du Soleil, including Guy Laliberté, then a musician and firebreather, now president and chief executive officer. In 1984, 73 people worked for Cirque du Soleil. At the end of 2001, the organization had over 2,100 employees worldwide, including over 500 artists. Initially, Cirque du Soleil toured only one show at a time. From 1984 to 1989, Cirque played to an average of 270,000 people a year. In 2001, nearly 6 million people saw a Cirque du Soleil show. In 2002, there would be eight Cirque productions running on four continents.
For most of Cirque’s existence, it was owned and managed equally by two men, Laliberté and Daniel Gautier. Laliberté had responsibility for most of the creative production of the company, and Gautier managed most of the business, especially external partnerships and financing. In 1998, when Laliberté bought out Gautier’s half, Canadian Business Magazine valued the company at $800 million. Managing a company full of creative people was not always smooth. In 1987 and in 1988, there had been “artists’ rebellions” where many of the performers disputed whether management was doing what was best for them and consistent with the original spirit of the group. In the mid-1990s, Cirque had tried decentralizing management into three regional divisions, one in North America, one in Europe, and one in Asia, to better support its shows traveling around the world. But this model ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Professor Thomas J. DeLong and Research Associate Vineeta Vijayaraghavan prepared this case. HBS cases are developed solely as the basis for class discussion. Cases are not intended to serve as endorsements, sources of primary data, or illustrations of effective or ineffective management.
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Cirque du Soleil
had not worked, and eventually all management was centered at the Montreal...