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  • 13.01.2017

    The Big Apple Circus Could Be Yours for Just $500K

    • Description

      If you've ever wanted to own your own big-top circus tent, now's your chance.


      The Big Apple Circus is putting all of its assets up for auction after declaring bankruptcy in federal court in November. 

      Interested buyers can place their bids on everything from the circus' vehicles to equipment to intellectual property, including its trademark, before a 5 p.m. deadline on Feb. 3.

      Bidders should be looking to acquire all or the majority of the circus' assets as one bulk lot, rather than individual parcels.

      A court-ordered auction is scheduled to take place on Feb. 7 at the offices of the Midtown law firm serving as the circus' legal counsel in its bankruptcy case. 

      "The priority goal is to sell everything, including the intellectual property, with the hopes that someone will have the circus in Lincoln Center this fall, reopened with the same name," said Stampler Auctions president Harry Stampler, whose company was formally appointed as the circus' auctioneer in bankruptcy court Wednesday.

      Founded in 1977, the Big Apple Circus has performed 38 seasons of its annual ring show on tour around the country and from its home base in Lincoln Center's Damrosch Park. At its height in 2008, the circus mounted more than 350 shows in eight cities and towns and generated more than $18 million in ticket and concession sales a year.

      It stood out among its corporate-owned peers as a nonprofit organization dedicated to bringing the circus arts to the masses. Over four decades, the group developed programming for blind, deaf and autistic children and offered free and discounted tickets to low-income families, among other community-oriented initiatives.

      But the financial crisis of 2008 hit the circus hard, executive director Will Maitland Weiss wrote in court documents filed to the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York.

      A drop-off in demand from companies for private shows and in attendance at venues outside New York City cut into the organization's earned revenues. Contributions from individual donors, government agencies and private foundations have remained relatively static while programming costs continue to rise, Weiss said. 

      In fiscal year 2016, the circus' expenses exceeded its income by $1 million and it owed its creditors $3.2 million. An emergency fundraising campaign failed to meet its $2 million goal by July 2016, so the organization canceled its 2016-2017 season and laid off its artists and production crew.

      It filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in November, with hopes of "preserving the opportunity to restart the annual ring show with new financial support or through a sale of the circus to an interested buyer," according to Weiss' document.

      Stampler Auctions listed the assets with a starting bid on Jan. 5, but the company did request interested buyers submit deposits equal to ten percent of their bid and no less than $50,000.

      The auction will only take place if the circus receives two or more bids that meet its standards, according to court documents. A judge with the U.S. Bankruptcy must then approve the winning bid. Any property that isn't liquidated at that time will put up for public auction online, Stampler's president said.

      "We have extreme interest from people from New York all the way to California," and even a buyer from Eastern Europe, Stampler told DNAinfo New York.

      Three potential buyers have expressed interest in the circus as a bulk lot, six others are considering the entire package, and a dozen plan to wait for the online auction.

      But the auctioneer declined to comment on the range of initial bids, saying the circus and its lawyers hadn't authorized him to disclose that information, even to the bidders themselves. 

      "This can be from A to Z as far as prices go," Stampler said.

      "There are going to be people who value the intellectual property for what it truly is —  a great brand. There are going to be other people who say, 'I want the equipment.'"

      If you're rubbing your hands over the prospect of the remaining pickings, let us warn you — you won't be swooping in for the Big Apple Circus' URL. To our surprise, it doesn't own that


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