EuropaCorp CEO Marc Shmuger told a company-wide meeting at the headquarters in Paris on Friday that he is stepping down from the role at the end of the year.
He stressed the move does not signal the end of his relationship with EuropaCorp or its founding chief Luc Besson as he will continue to work with the company as a senior advisor and producer on Besson’s upcoming action film Anna.
EuropaCorp also announced the departure in a statement saying that Shmuger would officially quit the post on Dec 31, 2017 and that Besson would take on the role of interim CEO on Jan 1.
Shmuger was originally appointed CEO on a rolling six-month contract in February 2016, following the shock resignation of his predecessor, the late Christophe Lambert.
Based out of EuropaCorp’s US office in Los Angeles, he was charged with putting the company “back in order” after its move to focus on English-language feature films and set up its own US domestic distribution company RED, in partnership with Relativity Media, backfired leaving it with a hole in its finances.
In its statement, EuropaCorp said Shmuger had “successfully bolstered the group’s financial strength through overseeing the sale of non-core assets, raising funds through a significant new equity raise, restructuring the company’s debt, and reducing overhead costs by one-third”.
It added that Shmuger had been instrumental in structuring a multi-year US theatrical deal with STX, kicking off with sci-fi extravaganza Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets; a home entertainment deal with Lionsgate, and also assembling the financing and distribution of Anna.
“Marc has been a friend for over 20 years and is one of my closest advisors. He came into EuropaCorp at a crucial time for the company and brought much needed leadership, experience, industry knowledge and vision - all of which he provided to me personally and to the company in extraordinary ways for which I’ll be forever grateful,” said Besson.
Shmuger said: “Driven by Luc’s vision, and through the strength of some of the best executives I’ve worked with in my many years in the business, I leave EuropaCorp with great friends, memories and relationships which I will always cherish.”
The announcement of Shmuger’s departure comes amid ongoing debt woes for EuropaCorp linked to its failed US strategy and the disappointing box office performance of Valerian.
A company spokesperson shot down media reports that Shmuger was the latest executive victim of Valerian and its poor performances which has weighed heavily on the company.
He said the move was due to the fact that Shmuger had accomplished what he had been brought in to do and would now better serve the company in the capacity of senior advisor.
In the backdrop, speculation is rife on how Besson intends to shore up EuropaCorp’s debts, without diluting his stake in the company.
French media has suggested the company is mulling a number of options from the partial sale of its back catalogue, to selling off the French TV production arm, to a capital increase on the markets.
The EuropaCorp spokesperson declined to comment on whether any of the options were on the table but said that decisions would be made in the coming weeks.