Howie Mandel arrives on the red carpet at the 2017 Canadian Screen Awards in Toronto on Sunday, March 12, 2017. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young)

Just For Laughs sold to Howie Mandel

Just For Laughs sold to Howie Mandel and U.S. company ICM Partners

Just For Laughs has been sold to an investor group led by Canadian-born comedian Howie Mandel and ICM Partners, an American talent agency.

Financial terms of the deal were not immediately available.

The new owners said the company will continue normal operations, with the same leadership in place.

Mandel says he has always been a big fan of the annual Montreal comedy festival and performed many times over the last decade.

“I consider it to be a cultural treasure not only for the Montreal and Quebec communities, but also for Canada,” he said in a news release.

“I am very excited to be part of this group of investors that will ensure the festival’s long term success, while growing their global comedy brand.”

In addition to the comedy festival in Montreal started in 1983, Just For Laughs produces international comedy tours, television specials and annual festivals around the world including in Toronto, Vancouver and Sydney, Australia.

It has production and distribution businesses in more than 135 countries and its programming is seen on more than 100 airlines.

Chris Silbermann, managing director of ICM Partners, said the Montreal festival has been built into a successful global business.

“We see a great opportunity to work with them to grow the global comedy brand, in both French and English speaking comedy, while allowing the team on the ground in Montreal to continue to produce the festival as they have so successfully for all these years.”

Festival chairman Pierre-Marc Johnson said the strategic alliance with Mandel and ICM ensures it has the resources to thrive.

The new owners said they are in talks with prominent unnamed local Quebec players to join the investment group.

The 36th annual festival runs from July 14 to 28 in Montreal.

Related: Canadian comic Mike MacDonald dies at 62

The company was rocked last fall after several women came forward with allegations of sexual assault and sexual harassment against its founder and majority stakeholder, Gilbert Rozon.

Rozon said he would sell his majority shares in the Just For Laughs company he founded in response to the allegations, which he has denied and have not been proven in court.

Media giant Quebecor Inc. said last week that it would not exercise its right of first refusal in the sale of Just for Laughs.

It had claimed that the company can’t be sold without its consent and filed a request for an injunction in Quebec Superior Court, demanding its 2012 partnership deal with the comedy festival be respected.

On Monday, its cable subsidiary Videotron announced it is becoming a partner of a new Montreal comedy festival that will be launched this summer over the two weeks preceding Just for Laughs.

Companies in this story: (TSX:QBR.B)

Ross Marowits, The Canadian Press

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