France's richest man, Bernard Arnault, said Monday he would sue a newspaper over a front-page headline - "Get lost, you rich idiot!" - which came after he said he was applying for Belgian nationality.
"Arnault has no other choice, given the extreme vulgarity and the violence of the headline... but to sue Liberation," his representatives said in a statement explaining why he was suing the left-wing daily for libel.
Arnault, the boss of the luxury conglomerate LVMH, insists his seeking a new passport is not aimed at avoiding high taxes about to be imposed on the wealthy by France's new Socialist government.
The Liberation headline, superimposed on a photo of the smiling LVMH boss carrying a red suitcase, is a play on a comment by ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy, who publicly muttered "Casse-toi, pov' con" ("Get lost, you poor idiot") at a man who refused to shake his hand.
The words became a taunt used by Sarkozy's left-wing critics.
Arnault, the world's fourth-richest man whose fortune Forbes magazine estimates at $41-billion, was close to Sarkozy.
He rejected criticism that he was being anti-patriotic on Sunday, insisting he was not becoming a tax exile, despite seeking Belgian nationality as crisis-hit France moves to impose a 75-percent tax on top earners.
"I am and will remain a tax resident in France and in this regard I will, like all French people, fulfil my fiscal obligations," he told AFP, adding that the bid for dual nationality was "linked to personal reasons".
Baron Edward de Rothschild, Liberation's main shareholder, said he supported the newspaper and that he would pay his own taxes "in good heart".
"It's simply in the provocative style of Liberation and I think it was a very good marketing operation," he said.
"When you ask the best-off people to make an effort for two years, in an effort of national solidarity, it should be accommodated," he added.
Following the election of previous Socialist president Francois Mitterrand in 1981, Arnault lived in the United States for three years, returning to France after the Socialists switched to a more conservative economic course.
In a televised interview Sunday evening, President Francois Hollande, also a Socialist, said Arnault "must weigh up what it means to seek another nationality because we are proud to be French".
"One has to appeal to patriotism during this period," he said.
Arnault's move has been widely condemned by French political parties on both the left and the far-right right as treacherous.
But Francois Fillon, who was prime minister under Sarkozy, denounced "stupid decisions" on the part of the current government which lead to "terrible results".
British Prime Minister David Cameron triggered a war of words with France in June by vowing to "roll out the red carpet" for French firms if Hollande implemented the new tax rate.