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A charismatic leader who dares to ruffle feathers, Frederic Rose stepped into the CEO role at Technicolor at a crucial time.

It was 2008, the company was flooded with debt and struggling to prepare for the transition from analog to digital.

“When we were at low tide, people said ‘You need to cut your investment costs,’ and I thought, ‘OK, but if we do that and we don’t drown, what do we do five years?,’ ” Rose told Variety. “My nightmare was to wake up out of this entire turnaround venture and realize that the bankers were happy but we have really nothing left.”

Rose’s strategic plan (called Amplify) reduced Technicolor’s €2.35 billion ($3 billion) debt by over $1 billion while maintaining its investment in technical innovation. Today, the company holds more than 40,000 patents and creates about 2,000 every year.

In order to get Technicolor back in the black, Rose says, he was forced to “spend a lot of time rethinking our entire workflow process and find ways to use more of our assets.”

He had to be ruthless at times, laying off hundreds. “Since 2008, we’ve refocused and realized we were not a charity.” He also points out that he’s hired 600 employees over this year’s third quarter.

“If you want to stay relevant you have to constantly rebuild yourself, retool, re-upscale yourself and you can only do it by training your people and bringing new people in: If you don’t do it, you end up with groupthink, and that’s when things go to hell,” says Rose.

A former top-ranking exec at telecommunications equipment company Alcatel-Lucent, Rose says he loves sitting in with the company’s artists. “Technology is tools and tools by themselves have no soul, so the question is always, ‘What you do with them?’, ” he adds.

Though often mistaken for Franco-American, Rose was born in Belgium, went to high school in the U.K., attended college at Georgetown in the U.S. and lived in China for a few years. “I like to think I’m multicultural,” he quips.

Thinking ahead, Rose says he’s looking into opportunities in Asia, where he lived while working for Alcatel. “Asia is an incredibly exciting and innovative market — just look at the creative geniuses coming out of Japan and South Korea!”