Duroux will join the company from Sept. 1 and is expected to be invited to join the board of directors at the next shareholders’ general meeting. Besson, who previously held both CEO and chairman roles, will become non-executive chairman of the board and focus on his role as EuropaCorp’s artistic director.
Duroux joins from public relations firm Brunswick, where he was senior partner and head of the Paris branch. Having started out as a photo-journalist Duroux has since accumulated a wealth of media management experience with executive roles at RTL Radio (France), TF1 Group, and Endemol France. He has also held non executive roles at Eurodisney, l’INA (the French National Audiovisual Institute), Stereopictures SPK (Korea) and at TV broadcaster M6.
The reshuffle follows a refinancing of the company by U.S.-based Vine Alternative Investments, which also saw Vine become EuropaCorp’s largest shareholder and Besson’s Frontline company reduced from a 38% stake to a 10.6% holding. EuropaCorp, which is listed on the C section of the Euronext Paris bourse, lost $125 million in the year to March 2019. Revenues fell by 50% to $45 million in the following six months to September 2019.
Before the coronavirus hiatus, EuropaCorp had not had a film in production for two years. The $100 million capital injection by Vine was intended to improve the company’s finances and to restart film-making. The schedule proposed annual output of two English-language and one French film per year. The company’s distribution activities, which previously spanned the U.S. and France, will be limited to France only.
Besson is one of France’s most iconic and commercially successful film-makers, with a filmography that includes “The Big Blue,” “The Fifth Element,” “The Professional,” “Lucy” and “Taken.” But “Anna” his last effort as director grossed only $31 million worldwide, while his previous “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets” cost a reported $177 million to make, but only grossed $226 million.
Besson has also had a checkered track record as an executive. He was found guilty earlier this year of having unlawfully dismissed a female assistant. He was also accused of rape by actor Sand Van Roy. Her initial criminal complaint was dismissed by the Paris prosecutor. Besson was also found guilty of plagiarizing John Carpenter’s film “Escape From New York” with his 2012 space-set “Lockout.”