NEW YORK (AP) — A jury deliberated only a few hours before concluding Thursday that Citigroup did not fool a British private equity firm into buying music company EMI in 2007 at an inflated price, ending a three-week trial that had pitted two former friends and powerbrokers in the British banking world against each other.

The jury in U.S. District Court in Manhattan returned its verdict after only four hours, concluding that Terra Firma Capital partners was not tricked by Citigroup into overpaying for EMI. Terra Firma had accused Citigroup of making it think there were multiple bidders for EMI when Terra Firma was actually bidding alone.

Terra Firma founder Guy Hands testified at the trial that Citigroup dealmaker David Wormsley had misled him about the number of EMI suitors by warning that he should not lower his bid because others were also making offers for the company.

After the verdict was announced, Citigroup lawyer Theodore Wells praised the outcome.

“I think Mr. Wormsley was put through a terrible ordeal and he was totally innocent. … It was a travesty he had to be put through this,” Wells said.

In a statement, Terra Firma said it was disappointed with the verdict.

“We believe that this was an important action to bring and that we had a responsibility to our investors to bring it. We are hugely grateful for their support throughout this process,” it said.

The firm said it had not decided whether to appeal and that it planned to focus on securing a financial restructuring of EMI with Citigroup.

“EMI itself will continue to build on its track record of the last three years, during which time it has improved its market position, achieved tremendous success with its new and existing artists, and produced remarkable growth in cash profits,” Terra Firma said.

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)


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