Vivendi chairman Vincent Bolloré consolidated his grip on French pay TV giant Canal Plus on Thursday by naming himself chairman and also ousting long-serving chairman of the supervisory board and Canal Plus Group chief exec Bertrand Meheut in favor of Jean-Christophe Thiery. Thiery is a longtime Bolloré Group executive, having worked in the French billionaire’s media businesses for over a decade. He currently oversees assets such as the Direct Matin free daily newspaper and now takes over the top role at Canal Plus.
A Vivendi statement said Bolloré would now become chairman of the Canal Plus Group supervisory board. The statement also said Meheut will remain as special advisor to Vincent Bolloré on the significant transformation that Vivendi wants to achieve with Canal+ Group. Meheut has been at Canal Plus for over a decade, since joining in 2002.
Bolloré has spent much of this year tightening his grip on Vivendi and, by extension Canal Plus. In July, then-Canal Plus CEO Rodolphe Belmer was ousted and replaced by Maxime Saada, who joined Canal Plus in 2001 and previously served as EVP of the Canal Plus Group and and head of Pay-TV.
Bolloré emerged victorious at the French media giant’s annual meeting earlier this year, seeing off a shareholder rebellion and winning a battle over double voting rights that will allow him to move forward with his vision of turning Vivendi into a global player. The billionaire businessman, who nearly tripled his stake in the company to 14.5% in the space of less than two months, was presiding over his first annual meeting as chairman. By consolidating, and indeed increasing, his voting control, Bolloré is now poised to move forward with his ambitious plans for the company.
Parent Vivendi is sitting on a war chest of up to $15 billion following a campaign of asset divestment by billionaire chairman Bolloré that has left the company re-focused on media through its two main assets: Canal Plus and Universal Music Group.
High on the agenda is believed to be an attempt to create a pan-European on-demand platform across France, Italy, Spain and Germany- and possibly the UK- that would not only rival but potentially surpass Netflix’s ambitions in there.