StudioCanal Acquires Stake in Mars Films, Appoints Didier Lupfer as President

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Vivendi Chair Vincent Bollore

Lupfer joined the organization three weeks ago amid a shakeup headed by parent company Vivendi's chair Vincent Bollore.

After being appointed as CanalPlus head of cinema on Sept. 7, Didier Lupfer has already been promoted to president of StudioCanal.

It’s the latest in the major changes spearheaded by Vincent Bollore, head of parent company Vivendi.

StudioCanal has also acquired a 30-percent stake in French production and distribution company Mars Films, and Mars’ Stephane Celerier will become vice president of StudioCanal.

Lupfer joined Canal Plus just three weeks ago from video game maker Ubisoft’s film division, replacing former director of cinema Nathalie Coste-Cerdan.

“This operation is part of a dynamic investment in content, particularly cinema, which is more than ever at the heart of our editorial proposal,” said CanalPlus Group CEO Jean-Christophe Thiery in a statement issued late Tuesday..

In a statement, Vivendi briefly thanked former head Olivier Courson, who it said is leaving the company to “concentrate on an entrepreneurial project,” for his time building the studio into a European major.

It’s the latest of the company's high-profile departures as Bollare morphs the former telecoms conglomerate into a media company. Indeed, under Bollare the company has invested heavily in content, and has amassed $15 billion cash as it has unloaded telecom properties SFR and Maroc Telecom.

Under Courson StudioCanal has boomed, becoming the major European studio, and particularly in the past year, with huge successes including the major hit Paddington. The kid-friendly film has earned $270 million worldwide so far. The studio was also behind Oscar-nominated The Imitation Game and Liam Neeson action-thriller Non-Stop.

Courson’s exit is the latest in a series of departures over the last months as Bollore has personally overhauled the film and television divisions.

Lupfer's appointment followed a summer of changes, with Bollare booting chair Bertrand Meheut on Sept. 3 and replacing him with close ally Jean-Christophe Thiery. Bollore also took on the role as chair of the Canal Plus supervisory board himself.

Bollore also dismissed Celine Pigalle, the managing editor of Canal Plus group, and Cecilia Ragueneau, head of 24-hour news channel iTele, on Sept. 4. Thiery will also be responsible for changes at that channel, and Guillaume Zeller was named editorial director.

In July, Ara Aprikian, director of channels D8, D17 and iTele, left the group. Bollore subsequently renamed the channels C8, C17 and CNews. 

The executive shifts are the latest move in Bollore’s plan to strengthen his grip on the conglomerate’s media properties and transform the former telecom company into an international media and content powerhouse. Bollore seeks to create synergies with other Vivendi properties, such as Universal Music Group (UMG), event ticketing company See Tickets and its latest acquisition and YouTube competitor DailyMotion.

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