Thoulouze takes post as Hersov ankles

LONDON — Robert Hersov has ankled as chief executive of Telepiu, the Italian pay TV company that is now controlled by France’s Canal Plus.

He will be replaced Michel Thoulouze, exec VP of international at Canal Plus. Thoulouze will also take the title of president, which was previously held by Jan Mojto of Germany’s Kirch Group. Kirch sold its Telepiu stake to Canal Plus two months ago.

Hersov stepped down after 18 months at the helm, in order to return to a senior position at Richemont, the giant Swiss-based holding company where he started out.

He has also been hired as a consultant by Canal Plus to work on the development of new thematic channels around the world.

Separately, Hersov has become a non-exec director of Enic, a publicly quoted sports franchise company based in London, which owns stakes in several soccer clubs around Europe.

It was Richemont that originally put Hersov in charge of Telepiu after he set up the deal for its European pay TV subsidiary Nethold to buy a 45% stake in the Italian company. Richemont is controlled by South Africa’s Rupert family, and Hersov is also South African.

Canal Plus inherited that stake last year when it bought Nethold, and then took management control of Telepiu this summer when it added the 45% stake from Kirch.

“It’s becoming very much an Italo-French story, and for an Afro-Brit like myself, it didn’t make a lot of sense to continue,” Hersov told Daily Variety.

But Hersov will remain involved with Telepiu and Canal Plus on a number of levels. Aside from his consultancy deal with the French company, he has just been reelected as a director of Mediaset, the Italian media group that owns 10% of Telepiu. Richemont itself also now owns 15% of Canal Plus as a result of the Nethold sale.

Telepiu operates three terrestrial pay TV channels in Italy, with roughly 800,000 subscribers, as well as a digital satellite platform.

As chief exec, Hersov slashed the price of the decoder to kick-start digital subscriptions, and also cut $120 million from the company’s cost base. This included firing 220 staff from a total workforce of 950.

Having upped its stake in Telepiu to 90%, Canal Plus is now in advanced negotiations to bring in several major Italian partners, including pubcaster RAI, telco Stet and the Cecchi Gori Group.

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