Canal Plus, U exex hobnob at Deauville

'Very exciting time,' U's Meyer sez

DEAUVILLE — Universal execs hobnobbed with their Canal Plus counterparts at a press lunch in Deauville Thursday, one of the few times they’ve met on French soil since the Vivendi/Canal Plus/Seagram deal was announced.

Pointing out that execs from the three companies had already met in New York, Paris and L.A., Canal Plus chief Pierre Lescure, U’s future boss, said: “Why meet in Deauville? I would simply say that the opportunity to get to know each other in our universe is essential.”

The Tuesday night screening of “U-571,” a Universal-StudioCanal co-production, at Deauville’s Festival of American Film had also provided a timely opportunity for the get-together.

Even though they had barely 2-1/2 meeting-filled days in which to gain some insight into the French way of doing things, the jet-lagged U team appeared to be throwing themselves into the exercise with enthusiasm over a rich buffet lunch washed down with fine French wine.

Sitting opposite Lescure at the table d’honneur, Ron Meyer confessed to knowing no French but made up for it by waxing lyrical about the new partnership.

“It is a very exciting time for us at Universal,” he declared. “We all feel very comfortable and quite excited about the combination. It’s a merger that really makes sense. It creates what I honestly believe is a global organization.”

What it will all mean for Universal still remains a matter for speculation, however.

While Thursday’s gourmet lunch sated appetites, juicy details on what the French have in store for the Hollywood studio were not on the menu.

The Canal Plus folk were more forthcoming in their remarks about Credit Lyonnais’ downgrading of Vivendi and Canal Plus shares Thursday, in which the French bank advised investors to offload some of their shares. A top exec dismissed Credit Lyonnais’ recommendations as “absolutely normal ups and downs due to the volatility of the stock market.”

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