May 2, 2019 / 7:56 AM / 24 days ago

Blackstone sues RCS owner directly over disputed HQ sale

MILAN, May 2 (Reuters) - U.S. private equity firm Blackstone Group has launched legal action against the chairman and controlling shareholder of Italian publisher RCS Mediagroup over a disputed property sale, a copy of the lawsuit showed.

Filed in New York on April 22 and suing RCS Chairman Urbano Cairo directly, the latest action adds to the one Blackstone filed against RCS last November. The first lawsuit was put on hold on April 24 pending the outcome of arbitration in Italy.

The case centres on RCS’ historic headquarters in central Milan, which Blackstone bought from RCS for 120 million euros ($134 million) in 2013.

Cairo, who became RCS’ controlling shareholder in 2016, has said Blackstone bought the properties at too low a price when RCS faced financial difficulties, and the transaction should be declared void.

The publisher, owner of influential daily Corriere della Sera, launched arbitration proceedings under Italian law in November to annul the sale.

Blackstone has in turn accused RCS of falsely claiming that it still owns the property and that the publisher improperly blocked it from selling to Germany’s Allianz last summer, according to the two U.S. filings.

The private equity firm says in the latest complaint that it suffered damages as a result of Cairo’s alleged “intentional interference with (Blackstone’s) prospective business relations in an amount to be proven at trial”.

Cairo was not immediately available for a comment. ($1 = 0.8935 euros) (Reporting by Claudia Cristoferi Editing by Keith Weir )

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