RCS expects Italy court decision in dispute with Blackstone by end-May

MILAN, April 26 (Reuters) - Milan’s Arbitral tribunal will reach a final decision regarding the disputed sale of the headquarters of Italian publisher RCS to Blackstone Group by the end of May, according to an RCS document.

Four sources close to the matter confirmed the decision would come in May but said that the exact date of the filing is still not known.

RCS Mediagroup, which publishes the influential daily Corriere della Sera, launched arbitration proceedings in late 2018 to nullify the 2013 sale of its historic headquarters in central Milan to Blackstone, saying it had paid too low a price as RCS faced financial difficulties.

Blackstone, which paid 120 million euros ($145.14 million) for the offices, has in turn accused RCS of falsely claiming that it still owns the building and of improperly blocking its sale to Germany’s Allianz.

The U.S. investment firm filed two lawsuits in New York which were put on hold pending the outcome of the arbitration in Italy.

It is seeking up to $600 million in damages from RCS and from its chairman and main shareholder Urbano Cairo, who took control of the company in 2016, a source close to the fund said at the time.

The Arbitral Tribunal filed a partial sentence in May last year ruling that the sale was valid and ordering two expert reports on the financial situation of RCS in 2013 and on the market value of the property at the time, to assess whether there has been any damage to RCS and, if so, how much.

RCS’ 2020 financial report, published on the company’s website, shows it has not set aside risk provisions for the legal dispute.

In the past the publisher’s board has pledged that Cairo would not be held responsible for any costs or damages related to the lawsuits. ($1 = 0.8268 euros) (Reporting by Claudia Cristoferi and Alfredo Faieta; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)