Wild Bunch, one of the leading sellers of festival films at Cannes this year, is expected to loosen its ties with parent company StudioCanal.

StudioCanal insiders say that StudioCanal' s French head Brahim Chioua will step aside, taking Vincent Maraval, and Wild Bunch, with him. Financial details of the separation have yet to be finalised. Until the dust settles, nobody at StudioCanal or Wild Bunch will confirm anything on the record.

The rumour mill also suggests that Stephane Celerie, the head of Mars Films, the speciality arm of Bac Distribution - the joint venture company between Studiocanal and Jean Labadie's Bac Films - could also join the new-look Wild Bunch.

Despite its glittering reputation as a supplier of cutting-edge auteur films, Wild Bunch is felt by some to have less of a place within the Vivendi Universal empire which already boasts the UPI, StudioCanal and now Focus, sales operations.

StudioCanal's chief Richard Lenormand earlier this festival announced that the so-called 'European studio' is to scale down its ambitious film production and distribution operations. As a result, the StudioCanal sales team headed by Pierre Weisbein will have far fewer product to handle and be reduced.

However, Maraval and Chioua are keen that Wild Bunch continues as a seller of and investor in films such as Gaspar Noe's Irreversible and Peter Sollet's Long Way Home, the latter being the subject of numerous bids from US studio specialist arms.

One insider said "there is a huge amount of change on the cards, but the idea is to keep doing the same things." A replacement for Chioua is expected to be announced soon.