One Essex Court’s Grabiner and Mishcon bring Guy Hands EMI case to UK

One Essex Court’s Tony Grabiner QC and Mishcon de Reya have picked up a role on private equity magnate Guy Hands’ long running battle against Citigroup over his ill-fated acquisition of EMI.

It emerged last week that the case would be unexpectedly transferred to the English courts from the US after several court hearings in New York.

Hands has turned to stellar One Essex Court silks Grabiner and David Wolfson QC, instructed by Mishcon de Reya director James Oldnall.

Following the joint decision with Hands to relocate the case from New York to the London Commercial Court, Citigroup turned to heavyweight Brick Court silk Mark Howard QC, instructed by Clifford Chance partners Roger Best and Roger Leese.

The move is a distinct change in tack for Hands who fought to have his case heard in the US five years ago, when he turned to Boies Schiller & Flexner managing partner David Boies.

The latest stage in this ongoing fight will see Hands attempting to put an end to the case he initiated in 2009 following his doomed £4.2bn purchase of EMI Group. The Terra Firma Capital founder had accused Citi banker David Wormley of misleading him into paying over the odds for EMI. Hands brought the case against Citi in 2009 but lost and EMI was seized by the bank, leaving Terra Firma with a £1.75bn loss.

Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison partner Ted Wells had sealed the victory for Citi in a court action against Hands, joined by partners Jay Cohen, Jack Baughman and Brad Karp (5 November 2010). The eight-person jury before District Judge Jed Rakoff found unanimously in favour of Citi.

However the verdict was overturned on appeal last year when the US federal appeals court found that the judge had mis-instructed the jury in the case over where the burden of proof should lie.

Last summer Terra Firma had filed claims against Citigroup in Manchester, but following the agreement to transfer the case to the English courts these will also move to London. The planned retrial of the New York case will now happen in London within the next 12 to 24 months.

Grabiner has made a name for himself leading on weighty mandates including chairing the management and standards committee (MSC) set up by News Corporation to investigate the phone-hacking scandal (25 July 2011). 

The silk is perceived as one of the UK’s top barristers and among a shrinking elite able to charge hefty fees. He was understood to be taking home £3,000 an hour for the advice to News Corporation, helping push the cost of the investigation to £53m (16 May 2012).

In Howard Grabiner faces another equally weighty commercial name. Last year saw the Brick Court silk appear several times in the Supreme Court, representing VTB Capital in a dispute with Marshall Capital and Konstantin Malofeev (6 February 2013) and a landmark insurance jurisdiction battle (6 November 2013). Howard also secured a Court of Appeal victory for the valuer of collapsed building society Northern Rock (9 May 2013). He will appear before the High Court later this year in a major professional negligence claim brought against Goldman Sachs by a Dutch pension fund (6 January 2014).

The legal line up

For the claimant Guy Hands

One Essex Court’s Lord Grabiner QC and David Wolfson QC leading Brick Court’s Tony Singla, instructed by Mishcon de Reya legal director James Oldnall

For the defendant Citigroup

Brick Court Chambers’ Mark Howard QC leading Fred Hobson of the same set and 3 Verulam Buildings’ Peter Ratcliffe, instructed by Clifford Chance partners Roger Best and Roger Leese with senior associate Abbie Grace