Mega-Collecting Cirque du Soleil Founder Guy Laliberte Busted for Growing This Popular Plant on His Exotic Private Island

The Canadian entrepreneur finds the charges “a little funny.”

Guy Laliberte. Photo by Jean Baptiste Lacroix/WireImage. Courtesy Getty.

Guy Laliberté, the art collector and co-founder of Cirque du Soleil said to be worth an estimated $1 billion, has been charged with possessing and growing marijuana after turning himself in to French Polynesian police earlier this week. Authorities allege that the 60-year-old was cultivating cannabis in a secured container on his private island in the South Pacific, which he has developed as a luxury holiday destination for the elite since purchasing it in 2007.

The Canadian entrepreneur—and former fire-eater—is a prominent collector of contemporary art as well as traditional African art whose holdings include work by Ugo Rondinone, Camille Henrot, Sarah Lucas, Giuseppe Penone, Takashi Murakami, and Jenny Holzer. A 2015 profile in the Financial Times described his taste as “blue chip-based and discerning but quirky, too.” 

Laliberté is also frequently credited with developing the art scene in Ibiza, Spain, where he has a palatial estate and a gallery, Lune Rouge, that displays some of his holdings. In 2018, Philips auction house partnered with his clean water nonprofit organization, One Drop, to organize a charity auction featuring works by market stars such as Sterling Ruby, Carol Bove, and Nicolas Party. 

In addition to collecting, Laliberté is known for his eccentric and lavish lifestyle, spending his fortune on such regular-guy pursuits as space tourism and the sprucing-up of his personal South Pacific atoll. He shelled out a reported $35 million in 2009 to spend 12 days at the International Space Station and spent an additional reported $100 million on enhancing the island, including installing art and building an observatory for recreational astronomers.

Laliberté’s lawyer, Yves Piriou, did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Artnet News. But he confirmed the presence of cannabis on the island to the AFP, though he clarified that it was used only for “medical and strictly personal reasons.” Laliberté is not being accused of the sale or trafficking of drugs, and a statement made via his company, Lune Rouge, further denied that he was growing the plant for any monetary gain.

“This case is a distressing banality,” Piriou said, adding that his client finds the charges “a little funny.”

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