Big Apple Circus springs back to life

NEW YORK - Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus may be pulling down their tents, but Big Apple Circus has managed to cartwheel itself out of bankruptcy.

A judge on Tuesday approved a deal that would save the circus by selling its tents, equipment and intellectual property to Big Top Works, an affiliate of the Florida-based investment firm Compass Partners LLC. Compass was the previous winning bidder at an asset auction with a $1.3 million offer.

The nonprofit Big Apple Circus, which can now celebrate its 40th year, filed a Chapter 11 petition in November, seeking to continue operating, albeit in a diminished way. The circus said its debts amounted to $8.3 million, against assets of $3.8 million, in its Chapter 11 filing. 

Before the 208 financial crisis, the enterprise generated revenue of more than $18 million from a 350-plus show performance schedule, while also operating community outreach programs for deaf, blind and autistic children. 

Neil Kahanovitz, a partner at Big Top Works who is a former circus performer and now works as a surgeon, in a statement called the Big Apple Circus “a cultural gem” and said, “We couldn’t let this beloved American pastime just disappear.”

The Big Apple Circus was launched in 1977 by circus performers Paul Binder and Michael Christensen, and at its height staged more than 300 shows. It hopes to return to its longtime home at Lincoln Center this fall.

Feld Entertainment, the company that owns Ringling Bros., announced last month that the iconic circus will close in May after 146 years, citing falling ticket sales, high operating costs and changing public tastes in entertainment. The final shows

ingling Bros. has two touring circuses this season and will perform 30 shows between now and May. The final shows will be in Providence, Rhode Island, on May 7 and in Uniondale, New York, at the Nassau County Coliseum on May 21.