In the four years since commodities trader Patrick Arbor fled the country and moved his assets overseas to avoid a big divorce payout, the former Chicago Board of Trade chairman has waged a mostly losing battle in court.
But Arbor arguably is still winning the war against ex-wife Antoinette Vigilante.
Vigilante so far has recovered only a fraction of her $18.2 million divorce judgment against Arbor, which is how people in these types of disputes tend to keep score.
In the meantime, the 80-year-old Arbor has continued to travel between Europe, Mexico and the U.S., successfully avoiding a Cook County arrest warrant for civil contempt of court stemming from the divorce case.
Lawyers for Vigilante say they believe Arbor even slips in and out of Chicago occasionally before they can alert authorities to his whereabouts.
When I first reported this story in 2013, I found a significant gender gap in sympathies, with men generally supporting Arbor and women siding with Vigilante.
I just chalk it up to rich people’s problems.
It hasn’t been entirely smooth sailing for Arbor.
Vigilante continues to chip away at his assets. A potentially big chip, a Swiss bank account Arbor controls, has been frozen pending a court ruling there.
Earlier this year, Cook County Judge Thomas Allen ruled against Arbor’s children from a previous marriage and against his son-in-law in a dispute with Vigilante over whether they helped him fraudulently conceal some assets from her.
Allen awarded Vigilante $219,742 in proceeds from the sale of a Water Tower Place condo, which Arbor gave to his children after Vigilante filed for divorce. Allen also awarded her $122,000 that Arbor had transferred to his son-in-law to help him out of a financial pinch. Vigilante has yet to receive any of that money.
Vigilante previously was allowed to keep their Palm Beach condo.
On top of the court setbacks, keeping a low profile in his hometown can’t be fun for someone like Arbor, who formerly was one of the city’s power elites.
“He is being severely handicapped in living his life, and his family will be embroiled in legal battles when he passes away. It seems to me he is leaving his heirs a whole lot of litigation as an estate,” said Larry Byrne, one of Vigilante’s lawyers.
Arbor might not mind that outcome, given his determination to keep his ex from benefitting from his wealth.
At a two-day trial in October concerning his children’s involvement, even Arbor’s son testified his father was selfish and secretive.
Plus, there’s not much evidence the divorce has handicapped Arbor all that severely.
Allen ruled Arbor’s children can keep a condo he bought for them in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. Vigilante contends Arbor secretly owns the condo and spends much of his time there.
Vigilante recently asked the judge to reconsider his ruling on the Mexican condo based on “new evidence”: an affidavit from a former Arbor girlfriend, Giselle Coates, who says she visited him there in February.
Coates swore that Arbor “represents himself as the true owner of the condominium” and told her he spends his winters there.
Bruce Friedman, a lawyer for Arbor’s children, dismissed Coates as a “dishonest, alcoholic wacko” and suggested Vigilante may have been behind her attempt to re-establish contact with Arbor.
In his own affidavit denying Coates’ allegations, Arbor said he is now a resident of Frosinone, Italy, and makes only short-term visits to the Mexican condo for vacations.
Furthermore, Arbor said that during Coates’ visit he had her arrested by local police after she snatched his cellphone one night and refused to return it when he wouldn’t give her money to go out partying.
Friedman argued Coates’ affidavit is her attempt to strike back at Arbor for the arrest. To further undermine her credibility, he attached court records of Coates’ previous arrests for shoplifting.
They sound like great candidates for a reality television show.