Messier-Era Canal Plus Chief to Be Replaced

04 February 2003

Vivendi Universal’s cash-haemorrhaging French pay-TV unit Canal Plus Group faces more management upheaval, with reports that its ceo, Xavier Couture, is to be removed this week.

Couture has been at the helm of Canal Plus since April, when then-Vivendi chief Jean-Marie Messier sacked longstanding boss Pierre Lescure [WAMN: 17-Apr-02]. The transition was anything but smooth, with Lescure’s dismissal prompting on-air protests and an outcry from the French establishment.

Three months later Messier himself was shown the door. New Vivendi ceo Jean-Réné Fourtou kept Couture as head of the pay-TV arm, but installed his own man, Bertrand Meheut, as second in command – a decision apparently not to the Canal Plus chief’s liking.

Couture’s resignation reportedly follows a failed bid for more power last week. He is said to have insisted to Fourtou that his responsibilities be increased at the expense of Meheut, a request that received a short, sharp ‘Non’ from Vivendi HQ.

With Couture out of the way, Meheut is believed to be taking over the number one spot, with news of further management reshuffling and hundreds of job cuts expected in the next few days.

The new boss does not face an easy task. Canal Plus continues to burn cash and lose subscribers, but its rejuvenation is central to Vivendi’s debt repayment strategy.

Data sourced from: The Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff