Bancilhon will replace MandrakeSoft's co-founder, Jacques Le Marois, who will stay on as chairman and president of the desktop and workstation Linux vendor.
Bancilhon comes to MandrakeSoft after founding or leading a series of start-up companies in Europe and the US. One venture he founded was O2 Technology, a database company he sold in 1997.
Bancilhon said his main objective was to bring MandrakeSoft to profitability. For the third quarter of 2002, MandrakeSoft reported a net loss of about €940,000 (£596,000) on €1.6m in revenue.
The company has not turned a net profit since the fourth quarter of 1999, but has been steadily curbing its losses.
SuSE Linux also announced yesterday that it would replace its chief executive officer. Richard Seibt, a former IBM executive, will take over from Gerhard Burtscher, who joined the company in December 2001. Seibt is expected to take the helm in late January.
Both Linux vendors noted that the appointments followed considerable restructuring efforts. SuSE, for example, reorganised its sales and marketing divisions over the past year and collaborated on the launch of a new server operating system, UnitedLinux.