Cirque du Soleil is to axe 3,500 jobs as part of cost cutting measures to avoid bankruptcy.
The Canadian entertainment group, famous for its touring circuses and musicals, is cutting 95% of its staff as part of efforts to stave off bankruptcy after it was forced to cancel all of its shows worldwide due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The company had to stop all performances in March, including six popular Las Vegas shows and global touring musicals Michael Jackson One and The Beatles Love.
“With zero revenue since the forced closure of all of our shows due to COVID-19, the management had to act decisively,” said boss Daniel Lamarre.
The firm said it plans to rehire “a substantial majority” of employees who are to lose their jobs, as it restructures and develops a plan to restart its business once coronavirus shutdowns are lifted and production is able to restart across the world.
The company added that it expects to resume production of its shows in Las Vegas and Orlando before other shows, therefore, the artists and show staff of the resident shows division will not be affected.
Cirque du Soleil said it had struck a deal to avoid bankruptcy under which its existing shareholders TPG, Fosun and Caisse de depot et placement du Quebec will take over the firm’s liabilities and invest $300m (£244m) in the business.
Of this, $200m will be in the form of a loan from the Canadian province of Quebec, where the firm is based.
Shareholders will put aside $20m for extra relief for employees and contractors affected by the move.
Cirque du Soleil's application for bankruptcy protection will be heard on Tuesday by the Superior Court of Quebec.