Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Saved! Terra Firma Keeps EMI Out of Citigroup’s Grasp (For Now).

Terra Firma, which made a disastrous bet on EMI Music a few years ago, gets a bit more time to try to salvage things.

Guy Hands’s private equity group has rounded up another $150 million from investors, which will allow it to avoid a looming default on debt held by Citigroup (C), the Wall Street Journal reports:

Mr. Hands’ success in tapping his investors hands him a victory in the latest round of his epic battle with Citi, which lent him the money to fund the leveraged buyout in 2007. With syndication markets closed as a result of the financial crisis, Citigroup was stuck holding more than £3 billion of EMI debt. The two sides have been unable to agree to a restructuring of the business, setting up a high stakes game of chicken.

The cash buys Mr. Hands nearly a year, to the end of next March, to execute on a turnaround plan for EMI, which has been buffeted by a shift in demand for music away from CD sales and the crippling debt the buyout saddled it with. Amid the problems, it has seen a number of big name artists flee the label, including Radiohead and Paul McCartney.

Bigger question: Does it really matter if one of the big music labels is owned by a private equity group instead of a bank? Maybe not. There’s still a good chance that EMI will end up getting broken into parts and sold off to rivals like Sony (SNE) and Warner Music Group (WMG).

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik