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Ex-wife on former CBOT chairman: ‘I find his behavior replicates the devil’

Antoinette Vigilante, ex-wife of Patrick Arbor. File Photo. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

Former Chicago Board of Trade chairman Patrick Arbor says he heard from friends that his ex-wife, Antoinette Vigilante, hopes he rots in jail.

Vigilante told the Sun-Times she just wants a fair divorce settlement from her 82-year-old ex-husband, now serving his seventh month as a prisoner in Cook County jail as a result of his determined efforts to avoid paying her and her determined efforts to make him.

“I don’t want Pat to rot in jail. I don’t get pleasure out of this. This has been a disastrous experience for my children and for me,” said Vigilante, 61, breaking her long public silence on the case after learning Arbor had sat for an interview.

“I wish Pat would make a fair settlement with me, resolve our differences, and he can go on with his life, and I can go on with my life,” Vigilante said.

For six years, Arbor had a distinct upper hand in his war of wills with Vigilante, who he derisively refers to as The Malfatorre, which is Italian for “the evil one.”

Although Vigilante had secured an $18 million divorce judgment against Arbor and a warrant for his arrest on a charge of civil contempt of court, it did her little good because Arbor and his money were safely ensconced overseas.

video by Annie Costabile and Brian Ernst

Arbor fled the U.S. in 2012 for Lugano, Switzerland, also staying at times in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. His funds went to parts unknown — the clues pointing to Panama, Zurich, Portugal, Dubai, the Channel Islands and Lichtenstein — but in any case, both man and money beyond the reach of the Cook County courts and Vigilante’s lawyers.

Then Arbor slipped up. He made a trip to Boston in May to attend his grandson’s graduation (first stopping in New York) and was arrested by authorities who had been alerted to the warrant and to his whereabouts.

Brought back to Illinois in handcuffs, Arbor has been held ever since inside the jail’s Cermak Hospital unit, currently on a $1.4 million cash bond.

It is a most unusual case.

Arbor is not the first octogenarian held in the jail nor is he the first wealthy person jailed for contempt of court in a divorce case.

But the combination of those two factors, along with the growing length of his jail stay, is “exceptionally unique if not completely unprecedented,” said Cara Smith, chief policy officer for the Cook County Sheriff’s office.

Arbor’s lawyers and friends are pushing to remedy that by securing his freedom. At the very least, Arbor contends, he should be released on electronic monitoring.

Only now it’s Vigilante who has the advantage, as long as Circuit Judge Myron Mackoff continues to hold Arbor in jail to compel his compliance with the court’s orders. Naturally, she has fought to keep it that way.

Antoinette Vigilante arrives for court at the Daley Center in May. | Max Herman / Sun-Times
Antoinette Vigilante arrives for court at the Daley Center in May. | Max Herman / Sun-Times

Fearful of losing their leverage, and especially of the possibility Arbor could use his wealth and contacts to flee the country again, Vigilante’s lawyers have convinced Mackoff to hold Arbor in jail for now.

Except that Arbor shows no sign of capitulation.

Most of the money is long gone, he argues, lost in the failure of a Portuguese bank. What funds he has left, $4 million to $5 million, are held in a trust designed to thwart hostile litigation — and therefore beyond his control, he contends. Vigilante doesn’t believe him.

Even as he presses for his freedom, Arbor talks as if he is resigned to dying in jail, an outcome he knows would be good for nobody involved.

But Vigilante refuses to be blamed for Arbor’s continued incarceration.

“I think Pat’s jail time is self-imposed. I think he’s doing this to himself, nobody else,” she said. “I think he’s doing this because he wants to win, and winning means not giving me a penny.”

Video by Annie Costabile

Vigilante declined to say how much money she is seeking from Arbor but said her lawyers have offered settlement proposals for “far less” than the $18 million court award that Arbor regards as unfairly inflated.

Arbor has never made his own settlement offer, she said.

“I’m not doing this because I’m trying to make money,” Vigilante said. “We were together for 20 years. I was married to him for over 16 years. I feel as though the court awarded me a settlement. I’m entitled to a portion of that. That’s fair.”

But make no mistake: this is a fight over money.

Vigilante said she never knew how much money Arbor had and still has never been provided records that would allow for a complete accounting.

“There’s probably a lot more out there that I don’t know about. I can’t imagine that’s all the money he has,” she said, noting she already has racked up more than $1 million in legal bills pursuing it, some of which remains unpaid.

But Arbor insists he’s divulged everything and calculates Vigilante has already received plenty — his own method of accounting not squaring with the court’s.

Arbor swears he was shocked when Vigilante filed for divorce, although her lawyer says Arbor’s emails show he was house-hunting in Switzerland even before then.

When given the opportunity, both Arbor and Vigilante are prone to rehashing the grievances of the marriage.

He complains she was a dishonest spendthrift who was always hitting him up for money and expensive gifts.

At the top of his bill of particulars is that just before she filed for divorce she raided his safe inside his Water Tower Place condo — taking his stash of gold krugerrands and cash totaling more than $300,000. Arbor called it his “Doomsday money.”

Former Chicago Board of Trade chairman Patrick Arbor and then-wife Antoinette Vigilante in happier times, dancing together at the Joffrey Ballet’s 2010 spring gala. | Supplied photo
Former Chicago Board of Trade chairman Patrick Arbor and then-wife Antoinette Vigilante in happier times, dancing together at the Joffrey Ballet’s 2010 spring gala. | Supplied photo

Vigilante said she was acting on the advice of her attorney at the time who believed Arbor was preparing to leave her with nothing. She said she documented everything she took and disclosed it to the court. In the end, the judge ruled in her favor after Arbor ran.

Vigilante says she divorced Arbor for “many reasons,” infidelity topping her list.

Despite all that, each of them told me they had loved the other one and never wanted a divorce. Neither of them seems to believe the other is telling the truth about that.

Arbor said that even after the divorce — and after he’d left the country — Vigilante approached him about a reconciliation and visited him in Europe.

Vigilante says they discussed “burying the hatchet” but that it “never amounted to anything.”

Vigilante still gets emotional when talking about how Arbor cut off her money, leaving her without a home in Chicago, which forced her to bunk with her daughter. She also ended up losing a home in Lake Geneva to foreclosure but managed to hang on to their place in Palm Beach, where photos in the local papers show she has remained part of the society whirl.

Vigilante rejects Arbor’s insulting nickname for her, The Malfattore.

“If anyone is the evil one, it’s Pat,” she said. “I filed for divorce. I stayed in Chicago. He’s the one who chose the path he chose by snubbing the court, by taking all his money and fleeing … I find his behavior replicates the devil.”

Arbor and Vigilante are due back in court Thursday. More ill will is expected.


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