Howie Mandel, ICM buy Just for Laughs comedy festival


Ottawa (AFP)

Canadian comedian Howie Mandel and Los Angeles-based talent agency ICM Partners on Wednesday bought the company behind Montreal's Just for Laugh's comedy festival, which is the largest in the world.

The festival was put on the chopping block after its founder and majority shareholder Gilbert Rozon was accused of sexual assault and harassment last year.

Financial details of the transaction were not disclosed, but in a statement the new owners said they were also in talks with "prominent local Quebec players to join the investment group."

They also said the festival would be "run exactly as they have, with all the same leadership and personnel in place."

"I have always been a big fan of Montreal and the Just For Laughs festival," Mandel said, noting that he has performed at the festival "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; and 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," he said.

Since its inception in 1983, Just for Laughs has grown and diversified into television specials, tours and hosting other comedy festivals in cities such as Toronto, Vancouver and Sydney.

It now has subsidiaries in France and the United States, and produces and distributes comedy shows in more than 135 countries.

Rozon quit the company in October following accusations of sexual misconduct, which he has denied and have not been tested in court.

This year's Just for Laughs festival runs from July 14 to 28.

But it will face new competition from upstart Grand Montreal comedy festival, which has been drawing away sponsors and talent from Just for Laughs.

Grand Montreal is to debut in July, but will also host a one-night show in April with proceeds going to victims of sexual assault.