Following speculation last week, Canal Plus Group president Xavier Couture has reportedly been replaced at the head of the company by Bertrand Meheut.

According to the reputable Le Monde newspaper, Couture was fired on Friday afternoon by Vivendi Universal chairman Jean-Rene Fourtou. His successor, Meheut, was previously managing director of Canal Plus in charge of the finances at the channel.

Canal Plus could not be reached for comment over the weekend but it had been previously rumoured that Couture and Dominique Farrugia, his even more recently promoted chairman of the French Canal Plus channel, would soon be on their way out. Earlier last week, a Vivendi Universal spokesman told Screen International that the pair were in place and in no danger of losing their positions in the ongoing shake-up. But they confirmed the departure of Richard Lenormand from StudioCanal (see separate story).

Couture was appointed only nine months ago in a high profile hiring from broadcast rival TF1. The firing of Canal Plus founder Pierre Lescure and Couture's hiring by now deposed Vivendi Universal boss Jean-Marie Messier, provoked massive outrage among staff.

Although has publicly supported by Fourtou, Couture had an unremarkable tenure and more recently tensions were said to be mounting between him and Meheut. Perhaps his final defeat came recently when Canal's winning bid for broadcast rights to League 1 football was suspended by the competition authorities.

Le Monde reports that Farrugia will also be fired and replaced by Guillaume de Verges, currently deputy managing director of programmes - specialising in cinema - at TF1.

Canal Plus is in a state of turmoil as staffers await news of lay-offs set to hit soon. An audit being prepared by consultants Cap Gemini may also help determine a new strategy for the group.

Canal Plus' parent Vivendi Universal was this week reported to be considering a new offer for its Universal Studios, Universal Music and theme park assets, contained in the Vivendi Universal Entertainment (VUE) division, from Marvin Davis, the oil Texan billionaire. Davis last week met with Fourtou in Paris and is understood to have discussed improving his offer of $15bn in cash and the assumption of a further $5bn in debt. Fourtou has not decided clearly whether he wants to hold onto the conglomerate's media operations and is also considering selling VUE in a piecemeal fashion.