Vivendi Universal is reportedly planning to pull its board director from UK satellite broadcaster BSkyB next month, as the first move in a strategic exit from the company.

The European Commission is forcing Vivendi to dispose of its 22.7% stake in BSkyB as one of the conditions of its recent three-way merger with Canal Plus and Universal Studios parent, Seagram.

Vivendi Universal is expected to swap the BSkyB shares for a holding in another media business, rather than sell them on the open market, both for tax reasons and because it doesn't want to depress the BSkyB stock price.

One likely scenario involves John Malone's Liberty Media which could exchange a stake in USA Networks for the BSkyB interest. This would reinforce ties between BSkyB owner Rupert Murdoch and Malone, who is already the second-largest shareholder in Murdoch's News Corp. It would also help Vivendi Universal, which part-owns USA Networks, bring the Barry Diller-headed operation further into the Vivendi Universal fold.

Meanwhile, Canal Plus has announced that its chairman Pierre Lescure is taking on an additional role as chairman of theme channel division Multithematiques, replacing founding chairman Michel Thoulouze.

Thoulouze has also been dropped as chairman of Canal Plus' ailing Italian pay-TV operation Telepiu.

In addition, Lescure has appointed Bruno Thibaudeau as chief operating officer of Multithematiques with responsibility for devising a "strategic action plan" in consultation with Bibiane Godfroid, who oversees channels and services at Canal Plus Group.