Runaway groom’s court fight goes on

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Patrick Arbor. File Photo.

Originally published Dec. 8, 2013

Did former Chicago Board of Trade Chairman Patrick Arbor forfeit his right to appeal his divorce case by failing to comply with two court orders, then ignoring two bench warrants plus multiple discovery requests, while moving his millions offshore and himself to Europe?

That will be among the questions facing the Illinois Appellate Court now that Arbor’s lawyers are moving ahead with an appeal of the rulings that prompted his rather drastic response.

It’s been two months since we broke this bizarre story, and I thought it was time for an update. Bottom line: Arbor is still in the wind, and his ex-wife, Antoinette Vigilante, is still trying to collect on her $18 million judgment against him.

Although the divorce was final Oct. 1, court records indicate all this is still keeping the lawyers pretty busy.

In addition to seeking to overturn the civil contempt order and the order to pay temporary maintenance that helped put Arbor in his pickle in the first place, his lawyers are challenging a later ruling that they say “grossly overstated” the value of the couple’s marital estate at $55 million.

ANALYSIS

They say Judge Thomas Kelley erred when he ruled Arbor held a $28.3 million investment in ALESCO Preferred Funding II Ltd. in the Cayman Islands.

Arbor never held more than a 1% stake in ALESCO worth $373,446, the lawyers argued. And they say he no longer maintained that interest by the time the divorce was filed.

Based on the $55 million figure, Kelley awarded $10 million to Vigilante as her share of the estate, plus another $8 million for maintenance.

Because of the way Arbor “thumbed his nose” at the court, as Judge Pamela Loza put it in issuing a default judgment against him, his lawyers were not permitted to participate in the hearing at which the size of the marital estate was determined. They say that prevented them from setting the record straight at the time and are seeking to do so now.

But Vigilante’s lawyers question whether there was any mistake and contend that if Arbor wants to correct something, he needs to return to Illinois, bring back his money, and submit himself to the jurisdiction of the court, which presumably would require his going to jail until he satisfied the warrants.

Arbor’s lawyers, meanwhile, have given no indication he is interested in returning and are questioning whether the divorce judgment itself is valid.

“In our opinion, they’re not even divorced,” said Howard Rosenfeld, one of Arbor’s lawyers.

This argument is based on the fact Vigilante originally filed for divorce on the grounds of irreconcilable differences, then changed it to mental cruelty at the last minute because the couple had not lived apart the requisite two years.

In a typical divorce case, the parties would just have agreed to waive that requirement as part of a settlement, but as you’ve figured out, this is no typical divorce case. Rosenfeld said Arbor didn’t agree to the change, and his lawyers weren’t allowed to object during the divorce trial.

Lawrence Byrne, one of Vigilante’s lawyers, asked the Appellate Court to dismiss the appeal, arguing that “Arbor is not entitled to appellate relief because he shows contempt for Illinois courts at the same time he asks for their affirmative assistance.”

“He cannot be permitted to display such utter derision for an Illinois trial court and then, when he finds the bed he made for himself uncomfortable, to seek appellate relief from the security of his Swiss hideaway, confident in his knowledge that he can simply remain abroad if he dislikes this court’s appellate ruling,” Byrne states in his filing.

To my knowledge, there’s been no clarification of whether Arbor is in Switzerland or Italy.

Rosenfeld, who said he still doesn’t know where his client is, emphasized Arbor’s actions have been mischaracterized.

“I don’t think anybody understands, when Pat Arbor left, he didn’t do anything illegal. He had the right to leave. He had the right to take his money,” Rosenfeld said. “Everybody’s under the impression he violated some kind of law.”

Indeed, as I have previously noted, there is no criminal case against Arbor. The court found him guilty of civil contempt. Just the same, if he were to return, he would be subject to arrest.

Lots of people think they get a raw deal in divorce court. Our court system shouldn’t do anything that encourages the rich ones to think the answer is to flee the country.


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