Universal Studios’ chief financial officer William A. Sutman has been named exec VP of finance at Canal Plus in Paris, becoming the first top U exec to officially cross the Atlantic in the wake of last year’s Vivendi-Seagram merger.
From France, Sutman will oversee worldwide financial activities for the newly created Vivendi Universal’s TV and film division, which includes all Universal Studios and Canal Plus businesses.
He reports to Canal Plus chief operating officer Denis Olivennes.
Company insiders say the move is an example of the Franco-American cross-pollination Vivendi chief Jean- Marie Messier is encouraging as the two companies gain their footing as partners. Culture and language barriers have thwarted many cross-border deals if not addressed properly at the outset. Vivendi U clearly wants to address that — even offering on-site French classes at Universal Studios.
“I think they would love to have as many U.S. employees spend time in France as possible. They like that exchange,” said one former exec.
Late last year, StudioCanal chief Vicent Grimond was named Canal Plus’ man in Hollywood; he is serving as the No. 2 to Ron Meyer at Universal Studios. Meyer, U’s president and chief operating officer, sits on the executive board of the Canal Plus Group.
StudioCanal, the film arm of Canal Plus, named Richard Lenormand to replace Grimond as CEO. Lenormand had been senior veep of finance at Canal Plus, and some said Sutman is heading to Paris to help fill that role.
Sutman was, in fact, traveling in Paris on Tuesday and not immediately available for comment.
“Bill’s appointment is an example of how very privileged we are to draw from both companies to create a powerful new leadership team,” said Pierre Lescure, Vivendi Universal co-chief operating officer and chairman-CEO of Canal Plus.
Daily Variety recently reported that Blair Westlake, the highest ranking TV exec at Universal, was in talks to take the helm of a Canal Plus unit called Canal Plus Technologies. Sutman was appointed chief financial officer of Universal Studios in August 1999, having previously held the same post at Universal Pictures. Prior to that, he was U’s VP and controller, playing a key role in the financial activities related to the USA Networks deal, the integration of Polygram and the restructuring of Universal Music.
He had been at Universal parent Seagram since 1997.
Sutman’s appointment completes the newly formed management committee of Canal Plus Group, which will shape the company’s global strategies going forward.