The Canadian founder of Cirque du Soleil has put his shares in the multi-billion pound business on the market. The asking price? A cool $2 billion.

Before you go searching down the back of the sofa for loose change, be warned that this won’t buy you the whole shebang and there are strings attached. CEO Guy Laliberté is holding onto 10 per cent of his shares and 10 per cent of the company is owned by Dubai investors. He would also prefer that the company’s international HQ remains in Montreal and has asked prospective buyers not to move its 1,600 employees away from “the metropolis of Québec”.

Laliberté, 55, launched his circus, unique at the time for having no animal performances, in 1984. Over 90 million people have seen Cirque du Soleil shows.

Why now? 2013 was an annus horribilis for Cirque. In January that year, the company announced 600 layoffs, following a disastrous 18-month period where four major shows closed around the world (Tokyo, Macau, Las Vegas and Los Angeles). Six months later, one of their performers died during a live show. Sarah Guyard-Guillot slipped from her safety wire and fell over 50 feet into a pit; the 31-year-old Paris-born mother of two nicknamed Sassoon passed away en route to hospital.

The street performer-turned-entrepreneur wants to move fast: bidders have been asked to submit their best offers next week.