Just For Laughs draws takeover interest from Swiss firm

Swiss-based GF Productions says in a statement it wants to position itself as a possible buyer of Montreal-based Just For Laughs entertainment company with the intention of adding a North American partner.

Just For Laughs hired RBC Capital Markets to examine options surrounding the sale of founder's shares

Just For Laughs founder Gilbert Rozon resigned from the company this fall following allegations of sexual assault and misconduct. The company is looking at options for the sale of Rozon's stake. (Radio-Canada)

Swiss-based production firm GF Productions is expressing interest in acquiring the Just For Laughs entertainment company with the aim of creating a global entity.

One week ago, Just For Laughs mandated RBC Capital Markets to look into the various possible options surrounding the sale of founder Gilbert Rozon's shares in the comedy festival.

Rozon, 63, recently announced he would sell all his shares amid allegations he sexually harassed or sexually assaulted 10 women as reported by Le Devoir and 98.5 FM.

Some have since spoken to police, with spokespeople for TV producer Julie Snyder, host Penelope McQuade, actress Patricia Tulasne and director Lyne Charlebois confirming criminal complaints have been filed with authorities.

Gregoire Furrer, founder and owner of GF Productions, says he wants to create an international comedy group and says banding together is essential for the future of the business.

"I am convinced that the transatlantic link is essential, in the digital age, to develop the largest international comedy group," he said in a statement Monday.

'Keeping the roots' in Quebec

Furrer said he wants Juste pour rire, as the company is known in French, to have the kind of impact in French that Just For Laughs has in English.

"It's about keeping the roots of Juste pour rire here in Quebec, and propelling them toward the international (market)," Furrer said. "Our deep knowledge of the broadcast, production and festival management market will facilitate the integration of the future entity."

Furrer was travelling to Montreal on Monday and was unavailable for an interview.

He said in the statement a deal would allow Quebec comedians an international stage and give European-based comedians access to the North American market through the Just For Laughs brand.

GF Productions has operated for 28 years and Furrer is producer of the Montreux Comedy Festival in Switzerland.

Rozon's number of shares in Just For Laughs has not been made public.

Interest from other groups

He founded Just For Laughs in 1983 and was serving as president when he resigned about two weeks ago.

Since the company announced it was looking at a sale, a few other groups have expressed interest.

ComediHa!, a Quebec City-based agency founded by Sylvain Parent-Bedard that has offices in Montreal and Hollywood, has stated publicly it is also studying the possibility of purchasing the group.

"It is essential that the assets of Juste pour rire remain in Quebec," the company said one week ago. "With this in mind, we have told the management of the Just For Laughs Group our interest in acquiring it."