Gael Duval, the co-founder of Mandriva - formerly known as MandrakeSoft - has said he is planning to sue his former employer for wrongful dismissal.

Duval lost his job, along with 18 other Mandriva employees, following poor financial results in the company's most recent financial quarter.

Duval co-founded the company in 1998, and confirmed his dismissal last week after word leaked out on a Mandriva message board. Duval said last week he believes his dismissal was at least partly due to bad blood between himself and chief executive Francois Bancilhon, which, if true, would go against dismissal regulations in France.

"I'm going to sue Mandriva for abusive lay-off, since I doubt that the real reason was economic," Duval wrote in a statement on his Web site last week. "I guess that my relationship with the current Mandriva CEO, which hasn't always been excellent, has been a factor."

Bancilhon has replied that the company followed France's strict rules on cost-cutting layoffs.

Bancilhon said Duval had contributed to debate about the company's direction, but said he didn't think there had been any fundamental disagreement. "I've always valued his opinion, and I still do," he said in a statement.

Duval, however, criticised the direction the company appeared to be taking, saying it is abandoning its roots among individual users and, in the process, losing its sense of direction. "Mandriva is more and more looking like a standard company, which is trying to sell services to fortune 500 companies, abandoning its initial roots. But at the same time, it's keeping on releasing geek products. This sounds like a fuzzy strategy," Duval wrote.

He plans to continue a project begun under Mandriva's auspices, an open-source project called Ulteo, and is also writing a book about his time with the company.

Mandriva changed its name after merging with Brazilian Linux distributor Conectiva last year. The company emerged from bankruptcy protection to post a profit, but last week reported first-quarter results including a net loss of 590,000 euros on revenue up only 1 percent from the previous quarter at 1.95m euros.

The company faces increasing competition at the high end from large competitors such as Red Hat and Novell, as well as from popular enthusiast-oriented distributions such as Ubuntu.