Laliberté has built a billion-dollar entertainment empire, including Cirque du Soleil and Lune … [+] Rouge.
jamel toppin for forbes
Billionaire Guy Laliberté, the cofounder of Cirque du Soleil, is in custody on the French Polynesian island of Tahiti for growing cannabis.
According to a statement released overnight by Lune Rouge, another Laliberté company, the Canadian businessman and medical cannabis user “is being questioned in respect of cultivation of cannabis for his personal use only” at his residence in French Polynesia.
French Polynesian news source Polynésie 1 reports (translated from French) that “a judicial inquiry was opened for drug trafficking.” Laliberté is cooperating with authorities and “categorically denies and dissociates himself completely from any rumors implicating him in the sale or the traffic of controlled substances,” according to the press release.
The residence in question is on the tiny atoll of Nukutepipi. The billionaire has reportedly made part of the private island open for guests on Airbnb, where 52 people can share the island’s spa facilities and infinity pool for seven nights at a near-$1 million price tag.
Laliberté, a longtime member of Forbes’ list of the world’s billionaires, cofounded Cirque in 1984 and helped build the modern circus into a global brand. He had dropped out of college just six years prior to become a street performer.
In 2015, he sold the bulk of Cirque to private equity firm TPG Capital, walking away with $1.5 billion while retaining a 10% stake in the company. He has since funneled around $100 million of the proceeds into Lune Rouge Entertainment, whose most notable asset is an 81-foot-tall pyramid in Montreal, which houses his next generation of entertaining acts. He’s also found ways to hearken back to his own entertainer roots, DJ’ing at the pyramid and, in 2016, a club in New York.
Laliberté purchased the island during a nine-digit real estate binge that followed the Cirque deal. He also bought a 270,000-square-foot complex of seven Montreal office buildings.
The billionaire sat with Forbes’ Madeline Berg for an August feature on his plan to create another entertainment phenomenon, an experience Berg recently recounted on Forbes’ “Listed” podcast. Laliberté was excited to talk about his art, she recalled, but less excited to talk about financial figures. She also said that Laliberté’s camp did not want Forbes capturing him smoking cigarettes on camera.
Tahiti, where Laliberté is being held, houses 70% of the