David Kessler, a well-respected French media industry veteran who had been heading the content division of the telco group Orange since 2014, died on Feb. 3 at his home in Paris. He was 60.
Kessler’s death was confirmed by his family to the newswire AFP. The cause of his death hasn’t been reported but sources close to Kessler said he had recently undergone surgery and had been hospitalized.
Spanning decades, Kessler’s career saw him navigating a number of top French institutions as head of the broadcasting authorities CSA and later the National Film Board (CNC), to the field of journalism, as head of the radio group France Culture, the French version of the Huffington Post and the magazine les Inrockuptibles.
Kessler, who was known for his intelligence as well as keen analytical and diplomatic skills, also held key strategic positions in politics. A socialist at heart, he notably worked as a culture and communications advisor to former prime minister Lionel Jospin, and later to former president François Hollande, as well as former Paris mayor Bertrand Delanoë.
Joining Orange in 2014, Kessler played a pivotal role in leading the telco company’s efforts in production, distribution and sales of premium films and TV series, first with the launch of Orange Studio and later Orange Contents. A visionary, Kessler also encouraged synergies between different divisions of Orange, including the company’s pay-TV channels Orange Cinema Series and its SVOD service.
Tributes for Kessler have been pouring in on social media since the news of his death broke early this morning. Reflecting the breadth of his career and genuine popularity, Kessler was celebrated by a wide range of personalities, including Hollande, Canal Plus Group CEO Maxime Saada, Orange Content managing director Serge Laroye and Cannes Film Festival president Pierre Lescure.
David Kessler a consacré sa vie à la culture sous toutes ses formes et à la création dans toutes ses dimensions. C’est ainsi qu’il pensait servir son pays, au sein de l’Etat ou à la tête de grands organismes publics ou privés. Nombreux sont ceux qui le pleurent aujourd'hui. https://t.co/v8zO4iKHcL
— François Hollande (@fhollande) February 4, 2020
Choc dans la profession suite à la disparition de David Kessler, un homme de culture et de dialogue, véritable amoureux de Cinéma. Pensées à sa famille et à ses proches https://t.co/mOyPN4i8YG
— Maxime Saada (@maxsaada) February 4, 2020
Adieu à David Kessler…
Avec amitié et affectueusement. pic.twitter.com/hbifME2oXw
— Pierre Lescure (@pierrelescure) February 4, 2020
C’est avec une infinie tristesse que les collaborateurs d’Orange Content ont appris la disparition de David Kessler et nos pensées sont tournées vers sa famille. Passion, culture, humour et complicité ont nourri notre relation personnelle et professionnelle. Au revoir David.
— Serge Laroye (@slaroye) February 4, 2020
Orange Studio paid a heartfelt tribute to Kessler, calling him a “warm man who cared about his team and was engaged in supporting the company’s endeavours,” Orange said in a tweet. “We will miss him a lot.”
L’équipe d’Orange Studio est profondément attristée par la disparition de David Kessler.
David était un homme chaleureux et humain, à l’écoute de ses équipes et engagé dans les projets portés par le Studio. Il va beaucoup nous manquer. Nos pensées vont à sa famille. pic.twitter.com/05OgApOojX
— Orange Studio (@Orange_Studio_) February 4, 2020
The Cesar Academy also paid homage to Kessler in a statement, describing him as a key professional within the fields of audiovisual, film and culture.
“The Academy expresses its infinite sadness and will mourn him for a long time.”