Studio Babelsberg chairman Friedrich-Carl Wachs has shocked the German film industry by announcing that he plans to quit his position at the end of the month.

Speaking at a hastily-convened press conference at the Berlin Film Festival, Thierry Potok, managing director of Babelsberg owner Vivendi's German property and services division, said that despite a good working relationship, there had been differences of opinion between Wachs and Vivendi about the future development of the studios.

"It is nothing dramatic. We agreed to differ and decided to part company," said Wachs, who became chairman of Babelsberg in September 1997.

Potok pointed out that Vivendi was looking for: "a better return on its investment through more efficiency and productivity of operations'. Wachs, on the other hand, had wanted to focus on faster growth and greater risk-taking to position the studios as a vertically integrated media concern.

Potok added that, contrary to recent press reports, Vivendi did not have any plans to reduce its ownership of Babelsberg studios. "We have obligations in the ten-year agreement with the Treuhand privatisation body [signed after the purchase in 1992] which we have fulfilled and will continue to fulfil", he said. "We do not have other partners, nor are we looking for another one at the moment.'

According to Potok, the French conglomerate's continued commitment to Babelsberg would be underscored by imminent announcements about new production ventures involving Studio Babelsberg Independents managing director Arthur Hofer, as well as the establishment of new TV studios and a new media facility on the studio lot.