Cirque du Soleil has announced plans to cut nearly 3,500 jobs as part of a business restructure to avoid bankruptcy.
The Canadian entertainment company has filed for bankruptcy protection while it puts together a plan to restart operations following the coronavirus crisis, which it said has caused "immense disruption".
Daniel Lamarre, Cirque du Soleil’s president and chief executive, said: "For the past 36 years, Cirque du Soleil has been a highly successful and profitable organisation. However, with zero revenues since the forced closure of all of our shows due to Covid-19, management had to act decisively to protect the company’s future."
Measures announced on June 29 include terminating the contracts of 3,480 employees who were previously furloughed.
This will affect performers and staff working on shows worldwide, with the exception of those employed on resident shows in Las Vegas and Orlando, which are expected to restart performances before its other productions.
A statement from the company said it had set up a $15 million (£12.2 million) fund to provide financial assistance to staff whose jobs have been cut, in addition to $5 million to honour outstanding commitments to freelance artists and contractors.
It also said it intended to rehire "a substantial majority of terminated employees" once shutdowns are lifted and shows can resume.
The $20 million relief package is being established as part of a major financial overhaul of the business, which has seen the company agree to a purchase agreement with its existing shareholders – TPG, Fosun and Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec.
They will invest $300 million (£244m) into the business and take on Cirque du Soleil’s liabilities, including ticket holders affected by the cancellation of shows.
A Québec government body is providing $200 million (£163m) as a loan to support this.
Lamarre said the agreements would "provide a path for Cirque to emerge from CCAA [bankruptcy] protection as a stronger company".
"The robust commitment from the sponsors – which includes additional funds to support our impacted employees, contractors and critical partners, all of whom are important to Cirque’s return – reflects our mutual belief in the power and long-term potential of brand. I look forward to rebuilding our operations and coming together to once again create the magical spectacle that is Cirque du Soleil for our millions of fans worldwide," he said.
Earlier this week, circuses across the UK warned they could be forced to close within weeks unless the government adds them to the list of businesses that can reopen on July 4.
The Association of Circus Proprietors said many circuses are well equipped to manage social distancing, but said time is "rapidly running out" for their survival if they are not allowed to open for the school summer holidays.