BLOOMINGTON, MN-A lawsuit over the ownership of the Mall of America contributed to Indianapolis-based Simon Property Group’s first-quarter earnings drop of 21%, the nation’s largest shopping center developer reports. The US District Court in Minnesota has ordered the nation’s largest shopping center developer to disgorge “net profits” received as a result of its ownership stake in the Mall of America since October 1999.

The company says it has not recorded earnings from Mall of America since the date of the order.

Earlier this month, a court-appointed special master determined $30 million as the amount to be disgorged. Based on that finding, Simon Property recorded an estimated loss of $13.5 million, or $0.05 a share. The loss contributed to the company’s net income dropping to $56.2 million, or $0.24 a share. Sales at the REIT rose 9.2% to $584.3 million.

Simon Property is appealing the court’s order to the 8th US Circuit Court of Appeals, and will be appealing the special master’s findings.

Last fall, the court sided with Triple Five Corp. of West Edmonton, Alberta, and decided it is entitled to buy a 27.5% stake in the Mall of America for $81.4 million from Simon Property Group. In the lawsuit, Triple Five claimed it was denied the opportunity to participate in a restructuring transaction that involved a sale by Teachers Insurance of half of its 55% interest in the Mall of America to Simon Property Group. The new stake would boost Triple Five’s mall ownership to 50%.

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