Guy Laliberté

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Guy Laliberté
Guy Laliberte WPT.jpg
Laliberté at the $25,000 World Poker Tour No Limit Hold'em Championship
Born (1959-09-02) 2 September 1959 (age 61)
Known forCo-founder of Cirque du Soleil
Net worthUS$1.2 billion (June 2020)[1]
Political partyRhinoceros (1980)
Spouse(s)Rizia Moreira (ex de facto spouse)
Partner(s)Claudia Barilla (girlfriend)
Nickname(s)Ahtata (Full Tilt Poker)
World Poker Tour
Final table(s)1
Money finish(es)2
Space career
Space Adventures Tourist
Time in space
10d 21h 17m
MissionsSoyuz TMA-16 / TMA-14
Mission insignia

Guy Laliberté, OC CQ (born 2 September 1959) is a Canadian billionaire businessman, and poker player. Along with Gilles Ste-Croix, he is the co-founder of Cirque du Soleil. In January 2018, Laliberté was ranked by Forbes as the 11th wealthiest Canadian.[2]

In 1984, Laliberté founded Cirque du Soleil. The Canadian circus company's shows have since been seen by more than 90 million people worldwide. Prior, he busked, performing as an accordion player, stiltwalker and fire-eater. In 2006, Laliberté was named the Ernst & Young Canadian Entrepreneur of the Year.[3][4] In 2007, he was named Ernst & Young World Entrepreneur Of The Year.

Following an announcement from Cirque du Soleil in April 2015 concerning a change in ownership, Laliberté will maintain a stake in the business and will continue to provide strategic and creative input to the company.[5]

Early years[edit]

Laliberté was born in 1959[6] in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada. His interest in show business began at a relatively young age. His parents took him to watch the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus,[7] an experience which led Laliberté to read the biography of P. T. Barnum.[7] While he was still in school, Guy produced several performing arts events.[8]

After school, Laliberté left Canada to hitchhike around Europe at the age of 18. While traveling, he made his money by playing the accordion. Also, he learnt the craft of fire eating and stilt walking during his time abroad, becoming upon his return home a real street performer on the streets of Quebec.[9] Laliberté joined a performing troupe called Les Échassiers, which included fire-breathers, jugglers, and acrobats who hitchhiked around the country to shows. He later returned to Quebec, where he obtained a full-time job at a hydroelectric dam. However, soon after his employment began, the company's employees went on strike.[8] Laliberté took the opportunity to return to his life as a street performer.

In 1980, he ran as a Rhinoceros Party candidate for the electoral district of Charlevoix in the 1980 federal election.[10]


Laliberté during a press conference at the Johnson Space Center

Cirque du Soleil[edit]

Guy Laliberté co-founded Quebec's first internationally renowned circus with Gilles Ste-Croix and a small group of colleagues. He recognized and cultivated the talents of the buskers from the Fête foraine de Baie-Saint-Paul and created Cirque du Soleil in 1984 with the support of a government grant for the celebration of the 450th anniversary of Jacques Cartier's discovery of Canada.[11] Cirque du Soleil was originally set up as a one-year project. However, the government of Quebec wanted a touring event that would perform in other provinces.

The name 'Cirque du Soleil' ("circus of the sun"), which Laliberté came up with while he was in Hawaii, reflects his notion that "the sun stands for energy and youth" and that the circus is about those two words.[11] In founding the company, Guy Laliberté was assisted by Gilles Ste-Croix.[7] It is said that Laliberté is the "father" of Cirque du Soleil while Ste-Croix is the "grandfather."[7]

Since 1984, Laliberté has participated in the creation of every Cirque du Soleil show.

Cirque du Soleil has become a sprawling international operation, as much in terms of its makeup as in the scope of its activities and influence. The organization now has activities on five continents.[6] Its shows employ approximately 4,000 people from over 40 countries and generate an estimated annual revenue exceeding US$810 million.[12][13]

In 2015 he sold 90% of his stock in the company.[14] On February 17, 2020, he sold the remaining 10% to Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec.[15][14]

Poker career[edit]

Guy Laliberté started playing super high stakes online cash games and live tournaments for recreation around 2006.

In April 2007, Laliberté finished fourth in the World Poker Tour Season Five event at Bellagio in Las Vegas and won $696,220. Laliberté also played on GSN's High Stakes Poker Season 4 show and took part in Poker After Dark season 4 alongside Tom Dwan and Phil Hellmuth.[16] He was also known for frequenting the highest stakes games on Full Tilt Poker.

In 2011 Laliberté announced the Big One, a $1 million dollar buy-in tournament which was featured at the 2012 World Series of Poker. Part of the prize money was donated to Laliberté's philanthropic organization One Drop Foundation, which primary goal is to provide clean drinking water and hygiene products around the globe. [17]

48 players participated in the tournament and Antonio Esfandiari won the $18,346,673 first-place prize. The tournament raised $5,333,328 for the One Drop foundation.

As of September 2020, he has amassed $2.530 million in live tournament winnings with only these two tournaments.

Laliberté has lost the most amount of money on online poker cash games. Over his six accounts, noataima, patatino, lady marmelade, elmariachimacho, Esvedra and Zypherin, Laliberté has lost approximately US$31,000,000.[18]


In September 2009, Laliberté became the first Canadian space tourist. His spaceflight was dedicated to raising awareness on water issues facing humankind, making his spaceflight the first, in his words, "poetic social mission" in space. The event was accompanied by a 120-minute webcast program featuring various artistic performances in 14 cities on five continents, including the International Space Station.[6]

In May 2020, Canada's Federal Court of Appeals ruled that his trip should be considered primarily personal, and not work related, and directed income tax be assessed on 90% of the cost of the trip.[19] The cost of the spaceflight was $41,816,954.

In June 2011, Laliberté published a book, entitled Gaia, containing photos of Earth from his 2009 trip to the International Space Station. Proceeds from his book are to go to the One Drop Foundation.[20]

Atoll of Nukutepipi[edit]

Guy Laliberté became in 2007 the owner of the atoll of Nukutepipi in the French Polynesia. Major works that took place there were expected to end in 2016 at the cost of approximately CA$20 million, according to Journal de Montréal (see below).

In May 2014, Guy Laliberté told the Journal de Montréal that he wanted to make of this place a shelter that could accommodate his family and friends in the event of a global catastrophe. "Because of all that's happening in the world, I said to myself: that could be the place where, in case of an epidemic or a total war, I could bring people I like and my family so that we'd be protected. It will be completely autonomous on the level operation: solar, environmental, ecologic."[21]

On 13 November 2019, following his arrest for cannabis cultivation, Laliberté's investment firm Lune Rouge stated that "Laliberté is being questioned in respect of cultivation of cannabis for his personal use only at the residence on the island of Nukutepipi" in Tahiti.[22][23]

Awards and honours[edit]

In 1997, Guy Laliberté received the National Order of Quebec, the highest distinction awarded by the Government of Quebec.[6] In 2001, he was named a Great Montrealer by the Académie des Grands Montréalais. In 2003, he was honored by the Condé Nast group as part of the Never Follow Program, a tribute to creators and innovators. In 2004, he received the Order of Canada, the highest distinction in the country, from the Governor General of Canada. The same year, he was recognized by Time Magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world.

In 2006, Laliberté took the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year award for all three levels: Quebec, Canada and international. Entrepreneur of the Year,[24] then, in 2007, was named Ernst & Young World Entrepreneur Of The Year.

Université Laval (Québec) awarded an honorary doctorate to Guy Laliberté in 2008. On 22 November 2010, he and Cirque du Soleil were honoured with the 2,424th star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.[25]

Personal life[edit]

Laliberté's son Kami is a racing driver competing in the European junior formulae.[26] He recorded one race victory in F4 but has no record of racing after 2017.[27] His daughter Naïma is a competitive dressage rider.[28]


  1. ^ Forbes Guy Laliberte – Forbes Accessed June 2020.
  2. ^ "The World's Billionaires". Forbes.
  3. ^ Ernst & Young, 2006 EOY National Recipient Archived 2007-07-08 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ Frank, Steven (26 April 2004). "Guy Laliberte Revolution Under the Big Top". Time.
  5. ^ "Cirque du Soleil Finds New Strategic Majority Partner In TPG-Led Investor Group". Cirque du Soleil. 20 April 2015.
  6. ^ a b c d "Biography Guy Laliberté". Cirque du Soleil. Archived from the original on 2011-05-08.
  7. ^ a b c d Guy Laliberte: The Fabulous Life of the Creator of Cirque du Soleil
  8. ^ a b "The Circus Kid: Guy Laliberté Is Born".
  9. ^ Jag (1959-09-02). "Guy Laliberte Biography – Guy Laliberte Bio". Retrieved 2011-03-10.
  10. ^ "Rhino Party promises to nationalize Tim Hortons, move capital to Kapuskasing". Toronto Star, 18 August 2015.
  11. ^ a b Cirque du Soleil: 20 Years Under the Sun
  12. ^ Collins, Glenn (2009-04-29). "Run Away to the Circus? No need. It's Staying Here". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-03-10.
  13. ^ "Official Cirque du Soleil Website". Archived from the original on 2009-09-25. Retrieved 2011-03-10.
  14. ^ a b February 17, 2020. Founder Guy Laliberté sells remaining Cirque du Soleil shares. CBC.
  15. ^ Kelly, Brendan (March 17, 2020). Coronavirus: Cirque du Soleil lays off more than half its staff. Peace River Record Gazette.
  16. ^ "Guy Laliberté's Life: Biggest Profits, Losses and Net Worth". Somuchpoker. 2020-07-22. Retrieved 2020-09-21.
  17. ^ "WSOP to host $1m tournament". Poker Player. 1 June 2011.
  18. ^ Pete (10 April 2018). "Guy Laliberte: The Man Who Lost $31Million Playing Poker". HighstakesDB. Retrieved 25 September 2019.
  19. ^ Appeal(Canada), Federal Court of (September 10, 2013). "Decisions".
  20. ^ Moskowitz, Clara (28 June 2011). "Earth's Beauty From Space: Q&A With 'Space Clown' Guy Laliberte". Retrieved 28 June 2011.
  21. ^ Ménard, Élizabeth (25 April 2015). "Le nouveau cirque de Guy Laliberté : L'atoll de Nukutepipi". Journal de Montréal (in French).
  22. ^ Rouge, Lune. "Official Statement - Guy Laliberté". Retrieved 2019-11-13.
  23. ^ Agence, France-Presse (13 November 2019). "Cirque du Soleil founder arrested in Tahiti for cannabis". CBC. Retrieved 13 November 2019.
  24. ^ Ernst & Young 2006 EOY National Recipient Archived 2007-07-08 at the Wayback Machine
  25. ^ "Guy Laliberte Honored On The Hollywood Walk Of Fame". 2010-11-22. Retrieved 2011-03-10.
  26. ^ Mio, Kevin (12 July 2016). "Montreal's Kami Laliberté, 16, sets sights on career in F1". Montreal Gazette. Retrieved 4 October 2019.
  27. ^ "Driver Highlights". SnapLap. Archived from the original on 2019-03-25. Retrieved 4 October 2019.
  28. ^ "Canada's Golden Girls". Fédération Équestre Internationale. 30 July 2019. Retrieved 4 October 2019.

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