France's Richest Man Bernard Arnault Sues Liberation Over Headline

Ryann Cooley

The 63-year-old billionaire of the Louis Vuitton, Moët and Hennessy empire is under fire after seeking Belgian nationality.

LONDON -- France's richest man, Bernard Arnault, is suing newspaper Liberation for public insult after its front-page headline on Monday ordered him to "get lost you rich idiot."

The daily newspaper was objecting to his decision to seek Belgian nationality, according to reports across the French media.

Arnault, the 63-year-old head of the Louis Vuitton, Moet and Hennessy (LVMH) luxury goods empire, has come under fire from all quarters for his decision to apply for a switch to Belgium as the headline broke.

His proposed move to take up Belgian citizenship is seen in parts of the French media as a first step to his future financial exile from France.

It is an accusation Arnault has strongly denied, a report in France 24 said.

The newspaper headline is in homage to an infamous verbal assault by former French president Nicolas Sarkozy, a friend of Arnault, who once told a farmer to "get lost you poor idiot."

"Even if he denies he will go into exile for financial motives, Bernard Arnault’s request for Belgian nationality appears to be the symbol of selfishness by the most wealthy," Libération added on their front page.

Arnault's lawyer announced that he was suing Libération for public insult over the headline, calling it vulgar and violent.

Arnault’s move comes as president François Hollande announced a raft of tax rises with France's most wealthy targeted to help boost the economy.

The president’s controversial 75 percent income tax rate for earnings over one million euros ($1.2 million) is due to be finalized later this month and will be included in the 2013 budget.

Arnault insists his nationality reappraisal has nothing to do with financial benefits and is not a poltical statement.

At least if he packs his bags, they will be of the highest quality.

"I am and will remain a tax resident in France and in this regard I will, like all French people, fulfill my fiscal obligations," the world's fourth-richest man told AFP.