Vivendi sacks Canal+ CEO amid Guignol controversy

DetailsMichelle Clancy | 08 July 2015

The supervisory board at Canal+ has ousted CEO Rodolphe Belmer, as controversy around the potential cancellation of the satirical puppet show, Les Guignols, continues.

Belmer had been expected to take over from Canal+ president Bertrand Meheut before his abrupt departure; Meheut will now stay in that role. Maxime Saada, the executive vice president of Canal+ Group and head of pay-TV, will be Belmer's replacement. At the same time, CFO Grégoire Castaing has been appointed to the Canal+ Group management board.

Vincent Bolloré, who holds 15% of the Canal+ parent, Vivendi, has indicated that he wants to shake things up at the company, which has seen declining audience share and revenue. And, according to Reuters, Belmer, Mehuet and Saada were not getting along, with tensions running high. That, combined with the fact that the company lost 3% in revenue and 9% in profit last year sparked Vivendi's move to push Belmer out.

Meanwhile a source had leaked that Bollore was considering cancelling the beloved Les Guignols programme, a fixture on French TV since 1988, sparking public outcry. French politicians even weighed in to save the programme.

Perhaps bowing to that pressure, management quickly went into spin mode. "It is out of the question that we would deprive the company of this jewel, which is the group's property."

However, the show may not continue on linear TV, or may be revamped.

"The management of Canal+ and Vivendi will have to decide under which format and when the programme will be broadcast," a Bollore spokesman said.

A source familiar with the situation told Reuters Belmer's exit had nothing to do with the debate about Les Guignols.