Ex-CBOT chair dealt defeat in divorce case

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Patrick Arbor, Chairman of the Chicago Board of Trade, in 1998. File Photo. (Bob Black-Suntimes)

Originally published Dec. 12, 2013

If former Chicago Board of Trade Chairman Patrick Arbor thought a higher authority was going to bail him out of his divorce court jam, he’s received a rude awakening.

In a pair of bare-bones one-sentence orders, the Illinois Appellate Court this week dismissed Arbor’s appeals from adverse rulings that led him to stash his money offshore and take refuge in Europe.

They sided with lawyers for Arbor’s ex-wife, Antoinette Vigilante, who accused Arbor of a “deliberate and ongoing campaign of open defiance against the authority of the Illinois courts.”

The appellate justices did not explain their reasoning, but the meaning was as clear as if they’d just told Arbor: “Get outta here, and don’t come back until you show some respect.”

Courts don’t look kindly on litigants such as Arbor who repeatedly thumb their nose at the legal system and then seek its protections.

I certainly hadn’t planned on writing about the case again so soon. It was just Sunday that I mapped out the legal issues on appeal. But I guess the three justices who dismissed the appeals Monday didn’t want to leave any doubt.

Arbor could now try taking his appeal to the state Supreme Court, but sitting there will be a justice who has some history with this type of case.

While she was still a practicing attorney, Justice Anne Burke successfully represented Lavonda Timke, formerly of La Grange, in a 1989 divorce case that has been cited as one of the legal precedents for the Arbor dispute.

Timke’s then-husband, Vernon, ran off to the Virgin Islands and stashed his money in the Caymans, to keep her from collecting on a $3.9 million judgment against him. Vernon Timke appealed the ruling, but the Appellate Court found that someone who defies a trial court and places himself beyond its jurisdiction is not entitled to appellate relief.

Of course, as I previously reported, Lavonda Timke says she never did get her money and dropped her case to put the unpleasantries behind her.

Monday’s ruling in favor of Vigilante gives her lawyers the green light to proceed full speed ahead with trying to collect on her $18 million judgment against him.

That continues to be a challenge, court records indicate. Trial testimony in the divorce case showed that Arbor transferred much of his money into Swiss bank accounts. His own whereabouts remain a mystery, although it’s generally believed he’s either in Italy or in Switzerland near the Italian border.

I actually got Arbor to his cellphone ever so briefly Wednesday from somewhere in the world, just long enough for him to tell me: “I have no comment.”

I told Arbor we really ought to talk. He said, “Yes, in the future, not now.”

That was the end of that, although I remain interested in hearing him tell his story.

The 76-year-old Arbor was a big deal in this town for a long time through his work at the Board of Trade and his charitable endeavors. He still is in certain circles. He’s got a lot of friends. He’s got some enemies, too.

Vigilante, 56, also declined comment.

Vigilante was represented on appeal by Marc Janser, Lawrence Byrne and Stan Sneeringer. Arbor’s lawyers were Howard Rosenfeld and David Goroff.

A judge has valued the couple’s marital estate at $55 million, although Arbor’s lawyers say that was based on erroneous information.

Arbor got in trouble for failing to comply with an order by Judge Pamela Loza to pay Vigilante $79,887 as an advance on her share of the estate to help her avoid losing her Lake Geneva home through foreclosure.

Arbor was twice found to be in indirect civil contempt of court orders, and as a result, two bench warrants were issued for his arrest.

If Arbor returns to town, the Cook County sheriff is supposed to hold him in jail until he pays what he owes on the contempt orders.

Something tells me he’s not singing, “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.”

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