Poker, Ibiza and space travel, the most mundane life of the creator of the Circus of the Sun

The arrest last week of Guy Laliberté, the founder of the Circus of the Sun, for growing marijuana on his private island of Nukutepipi in French Polynesia, has brought back to date a peculiar character of which almost everything is publicly unknown. Laliberté was released without charge after giving a statement to the judge, as made clear by a statement issued by Anne Dongois, spokesman for Red Moon, the company of the Canadian-born entrepreneur. And she herself was also in charge of communicating the impressions she had produced to the creator of the format that revolutionized the circus world 25 years ago about the magnitude of her detention: "I am very surprised by the disproportionate importance that has been given to a fact that is usually trivialized when it comes to someone who is in possession of cannabis plants for personal use. I would like to point out that the agents were respectful and courteous to me, which was a balm in all this misfortune. and that I will obviously continue to work with the judicial authorities of Polynesia."

Laliberté's surprise is that he understands that his case is that of a consumer of cannabis medicinal, according to his statements, who cultivates only for personal purposes and "completely dissociates himself from any rumor that involves him far or close with narcotics trafficking". In fact, his lawyers noted that he has a Canadian certificate to grow marijuana for medical purposes, a document that is not valid in French Polynesia where the French Criminal Code prevails, which establishes penalties for such charges ranging from one year in prison for consumption to a maximum of 20 years for production and healists.&;

What Laliberté forgets in his statement is that the brand of the circus he created continues to arouse admiration and curiosity around the world and his person is forever linked to the Circus of the Sun, although in 2015 he, who was its majority owner, would have a minority stake after selling 90% to a group of international investors for a figure that several averages put at 1.3 billion euros. Since then, Guy Laliberté remains linked to the circus brand contributing his strategic and creative vision to the company, as specified in a statement published at the time, but his multimillionaire activity is variopinta.

With a personal fortune estimated at more than $1 billion (just over 900 million euros) the founder of circus of the Sun, which is currently 60 years old, is anything but a conventional person. He was born in Quebec in 1959 and began as an accordionist and puppeteer with moderate financial results in his early projects. But in 1983 the Quebec government noticed it and left it in its hands $1.5 million to perform a show to commemorate the following year the 450th anniversary of Canada's discovery. The project was presented under the name Le Grand Tour du Cirque du Soleil and had a great public success, albeit a relatively low economic return: about $40,000 in profit. It didn't matter because the seed of a special idea for the world of circus had already dug and allowed it to find funding for new projects that were internationalized in 1987, when Cirque du Soleil first left Canada and presented itself in Los Angeles, investing its founder all his savings in this new project.

zoom in Guy Laliberté and model Claudia Barilla, in 2006. Getty images

The rest is history and with the sale of his project he continued as creative director and his fortune soared to the point of being able to realize those other plans that for most are left in dreams. For example, buy the island of Nukutepipi, about 2.3 square kilometers, and turn it into a resort with a maximum capacity of 50 guests that can be rented in full for 900,000 euros per week. Laliberté has been married twice, both with two models. His first wife was Brazilian, Rizia Moreira, and the second Italian, Claudia Barilla. He has five children and is known for his parties without barracks or restrictions. Years ago, journalist Ian Harpelin published a biography in which he referred to the ones he organized at his home in Montreal in "the ones that were all allowed." And he is also well known in Ibiza, an island where he has a house that makes sure he witnesses historical games in summer and where he participates in businesses such as the Heart, a space in which he mixes the music, dance and haute cuisine that is located in the Ibiza Gran Hotel and in which he is a partner with the Brothers Adrian. 

In 2009 he paid more than 31 million euros for being one of the first tourists to be able to visit the International Space Station for 10 days. An experience he said: "It was extraordinary, I was there and I was the 510th person who traveled to outer space. It's a privilege, even if you pay, to be among the first 1,000 to do something of this magnitude on the planet is a physical and mental experience. But i was the one I was and I'm still who I am after living it." The millionaire outlay was a whim, no doubt, but Laliberté claimed that his spacewalk would inspire him for upcoming shows and at the same time served him to promote his One Drop Foundation which he created in 2007 to combat global poverty through access to safe drinking water for everyone. 

zoom in Laliberté, in 2009, before taking off at the International Space Station aboard the Soyouz spacecraft. Reuters

A philanthropic activity that leaves aside the more mundane side of Guy Laliberté, who is also well known for being a passionate poker player, a hobby that has caused him to lose million-dollar amounts that some averages amount to more than 27 million euros in recent years