Richest People

Canada’s Richest People: Guy Laliberté

Canada’s Richest People
Guy Laliberté
(Photo: Cirque du Soleil)

Guy Laliberté

Net Worth:
$2.14 billion
(▼1.4% from 2017)

Rich 100 rank: #46
Change in rank from 2017: ▼5
Major company holdings: Cirque du Soleil
Location: Montreal
Age: 65

The co-founder of Cirque du Soleil has sold all but 10% of the company and is evidently looking for something to occupy his time. In 2015 Guy Laliberté floated the idea of redeveloping Saint Helen’s Island, a heritage site owned by the city of Montreal, into a “memorial park” for the dead. The plan reportedly involved a museum, event space for funerals, a restaurant and even a section for pets. Since then that plan appears not to have progressed. In the meantime, Laliberté joined forces with fellow Rich 100 member André Desmarais (No. 8) to throw his weight behind a plan to redevelop LeBreton Flats, a 21-hectare parcel of land just west of downtown Ottawa. The design called for an NHL arena for the Ottawa Senators, along with a new public library, a botanical garden, a YMCA location and a “Brewseum” sponsored by Molson Coors. That bid ultimately lost out to a rival proposition by a group led by Senators owner—and yet another Rich 100 member—Eugene Melnyk (No. 79).

Regardless, Laliberté has come a long way from his origins as a busker: He used to earn money juggling, fire eating and playing accordion on the streets of Quebec. Cirque du Soleil came about when he and partner Daniel Gauthier employed the creative talents of their friends—other buskers and musicians—to put on street festivals. In 1984, they convinced the Quebec government to give them a grant for $1.5 million to stage a performance to mark the 450th anniversary of the arrival of Jacques Cartier to New France. Laliberté stepped away from the day-to-day of the business in 2008, and in 2015 he sold his majority stake in the company to a group of outside investors, including Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec.

An avid poker player, Laliberté now hosts the annual Big One for One Drop, a five-day invitation-only poker tournament with a €1,000,000 buy-in. The event, which is only for amateur players, is hosted at the Casino de Monte-Carlo in Monaco and supports Laliberté’s One Drop Foundation, the charity he founded in 2007 that’s focused on water security in the developing world.

Updated Thursday, November 9, 2017