Christophe Lambert, the former advertising executive and right hand to Luc Besson, has died. French media is reporting that Lambert passed away in Marseille after a cancer diagnosis earlier this year. He was 51. Lambert left his post as CEO at Besson’s EuropaCorp in February and was replaced by former Universal Pictures chairman Marc Shmuger. The news was a surprise at the time, especially given he and Besson had put together funding and a strong game plan to take EuropaCorp to the next level. A statement at the time of his exit said he had decided to “concentrate on personal projects.”

A respected executive, Lambert helped turn around EuropaCorp’s fortunes when he replaced Pierre Ange Le Pogam in 2011. Most importantly, he helped Besson — the creative engine of the whole company — go back to what he does best: make movies and generate ideas, and leave the daily running of the business to his partner. Lambert left EuropaCorp in good shape: With Besson working on his beloved Valerian and having found the financing for a $180 million indie sci-fi epic out of Europe. That was quit a feat for Lambert few others can match.

“We have just learned of the death of Christophe Lambert,” EuropaCorp said in a statement today. ” The entire EuropaCorp family mourns his sudden departure. The EuropaCorp group and all of his collaborators wish to express their condolences to Marie Sara, their children, their family, and all of their close ones.”

Lambert and Besson built a studio in Paris and also established RED, a domestic distribution pipeline created in an effort to have more control over Europa’s product.

“I am deeply saddened by the death of my dear friend Christophe Lambert,” said Tooley Productions CEO Tucker Tooley, who helped broker the RED deal with Lambert while at Relativity. “He was, first and foremost, an incredibly devoted father and husband, and his family was most important to him; that will be his legacy. Christophe was also a uniquely talented filmmaker and charismatic leader. He will be deeply missed, and my thoughts are with his family.”