Giovanni Minoli has been dismissed from his position as general director of Italian pay-TV platform Stream in an unexpected move that casts further doubts over the future of the beleaguered News Corp and Telecom Italia-owned company.

Stream CEO Lucia Morselli said in a letter that she had taken her decision after learning of a secret meeting between Minoli and Michel Thoulouze, the president of Stream's rival Telepiu. Morselli said she had been notified of the meeting "neither before nor after" it had taken place.

Stream spokesman Vincenzo Lusso said Morselli's decision to fire Minoli, who had been appointed only six months ago, had taken everybody by surprise. "It came completely out of the blue," he said.

In addition to Minoli's dinner meeting with Thoulouze, Morselli said two other incidents had contributed to her decision. She said Minoli, who was responsible for the company's advertising and TV programming, had contacted an advertising agency without notifying Stream's board of directors. He had also failed to advise the board of his decision to appoint Luciano Rispoli as presenter of Stream's version of popular international format Big Brother, Morselli said.

Minoli, the former director of the RAI3 TV channel, criticised Morselli's decision and denied that he had acted wrongly. He said he would be forced to take legal action "to defend his name and professionalism."

"It was neither an amicable separation nor a matter of mutual consent," Minoli said in an interview with Rome daily La Repubblica. "I am hurt because it is based on fragile arguments which must now be proved. "

Meanwhile, Telepiu's Thoulouze wrote a letter to Stream, saying that he was "surprised about the move over Minoli."

In recent months, Stream has seen a lengthy list of its top executives leave, including top boss Riccardo Catalani, who stepped down at the end of June, barely six months into the job. He was the third CEO to leave the company in the last eighteen months. Commercial general director Mauro Pinelli, commercial director Giglio Del Borgo and marketing director Paolo Badrigo also left in recent weeks (Screendaily, July 6).