French TV exec Alain de Greef, who co-founded pay TV giant Canal Plus, died Monday at the age of 68 of cancer. He was a pioneer of French TV, launching Canal Plus in the 1980’s along with Pierre Lescure and André Rousslet in the 1980s. 

During his time at Canal Plus from 1986-2000, De Greef was in charge of Canal’s content firstly as director of production, then head of programs, and finally as director general. De Greef and Lescure first collaborated together on seminal 1980s music program Les Enfants du Rock for public channel Antenne 2, now France 2.

De Greef’s arrival raised the quality of Canal’s content considerably. He was responsible for creating a number of hits, including popular puppet satire show Les Guignols de l’Info as well as talk show Nulle Part Ailleurs, which launched the careers of Antoine de Caunes, Jamel Debbouze, and Omar Sy (Intouchables). 

“It’s thanks to this rare man that everything started for me in this profession… May the impressive Monsieur Alain de Greef rest in peace,” tweeted Sy on hearing of De Greef’s passing. 

De Greef lost his post at Canal Plus in 2001 during the tempestuous reign of Jean-Marie Messier.