July 21st, 2024

Company that operates Just for Laughs owes nearly $22.5 million: court documents

By The Canadian Press on March 7, 2024.

The company that runs the Just for Laughs comedy festival says the Toronto event will not go ahead as planned this year. A news crew shoots a report in front of the Just for Laughs theatre in Montreal on Tuesday, March 5, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

TORONTO – Court documents show the company that runs the Just for Laughs comedy festival owes nearly $22.5 million to creditors.

Groupe Juste pour rire Inc. announced Tuesday that it was seeking creditor protection and cancelling this year’s festival in Montreal, and said Wednesday that the Toronto event would be getting the axe too – at least temporarily.

The papers filed in Quebec’s Superior Court show Juste pour rire owes $16.6 million to the National Bank of Canada.

It also owes nearly $2 million to the Business Development Bank of Canada and more than $2.5 million to the Societe de developpement des entreprises culturelles, a Quebec government agency.

A spokesman for the company declined to comment on the financial situation.

Juste pour rire announced Tuesday that it had laid off 75 employees – roughly 70 per cent of its workforce – as it looks to restructure.

The company says it hopes the festivals will resume in 2025 once it has finished restructuring the business.

The event in Montreal typically happens in July, and the Toronto festival had been scheduled for September.

Juste pour rire blamed its financial woes on a number of factors, including the COVID-19 pandemic, inflation and the changing entertainment industry, though court records show a bailiff seized more than $800,000 in assets from the company last week after it failed to make a court-ordered payment to a former employee.

That employee is not on the list of debtors filed in court.

That list does include Equipe Spectra, a Montreal festival producer that is owed more than $611,000; and Bell Canada, which is owed more than $237,000. Bell Canada owns a 51 per cent stake in Juste pour rire with event promoter Evenko.

Evenko and Equipe Spektra are both part of Groupe CH – a company headed by Geoff Molson, who sits on the board of Juste pour rire.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 7, 2024.

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