Mark Brown: Ex-CBOT chief accused of fleeing country to keep millions from ex-wife
By Mark Brown October 4, 2013 10:13PM
Updated: November 7, 2013 6:49AM
Former Chicago Board of Trade Chairman Patrick Arbor, one of this town’s leading movers and shakers for three decades, is subject to arrest should he ever set foot here again.
Given the lengths to which Arbor has gone to leave Chicago behind, allegedly fleeing to Europe to shield tens of millions of dollars in assets from his wife in their divorce, it is reasonable to conclude he does not intend to return.
A Cook County judge issued a new bench warrant on Tuesday for Arbor, 76, a pal of many politicians including former Mayor Richard M. Daley, as well as a business and civic fixture still listed as a trustee at Loyola University.
Court records indicate it is believed he has relocated either to Italy, where he recently established dual citizenship, or to Switzerland near the Italian border to take advantage of Swiss tax laws.
The warrant calls for Arbor to be held in Cook County Jail until he coughs up $288,983 he was previously ordered to pay Antoinette Vigilante, 56, his wife of 17 years. That’s only a fraction of what the court says he owes her.
The couple’s divorce became final Tuesday with Arbor ordered to pay Vigilante another $18 million, although Arbor’s lawyers have indicated they will appeal.
The warrant stems from a pair of contempt of court citations issued against Arbor by another judge earlier this year for repeatedly ignoring her orders in the divorce case.
Eventually, Judge Pamela Loza issued a default judgment in favor of Vigilante in August after determining Arbor transferred $13 million to offshore accounts to avoid paying any of it to his wife.
This was in addition to another $13 million Arbor previously had acknowledged holding in a Swiss bank account while denying it was part of the marital estate.
On top of all that, with the divorce case pending, Arbor transferred title of his Water Tower condo to his children from a previous marriage, gave his son title to his car and “in all ways thumbed his nose at this court,” Loza wrote.
Then this week, based on belated disclosures by Arbor’s accountants, Judge Thomas Kelley ruled financial documents show Arbor appears to control another $28.3 million investment not previously known to his wife or the court.
That would bring the total value of Arbor’s assets to $55 million, more than twice what he had admitted owning.
Kelley agreed to award Vigilante $10 million as her share of the estate, plus another lump-sum payment of $8 million in maintenance. The lump-sum maintenance was necessary, Kelley ruled, because Arbor can’t be trusted to make monthly payments.
But collecting on any of that money may be another matter entirely for Vigilante, given the indications that Arbor has moved his money outside the country and beyond the reach of the Cook County court system.
The irony is that Vigilante’s lawyers began pleading for an injunction to block Arbor from transferring his assets from the moment she filed for divorce in June 2012.
The lawyers warned that Vigilante feared Arbor was making “imminent” plans to move to Italy and had created overseas accounts and shell corporations in Panama and Liechtenstein in preparation.
They said he appeared to be opening bank accounts, later confirmed, under the name Mazzoni, which is believed to be his maternal grandfather’s name. They said he was looking for a place to live in Lugano, Switzerland.
Arbor’s lawyers countered by mocking his wife’s “fears” and said there was no basis to believe Arbor was dissipating the couple’s assets. Arbor said in an affidavit that his wife, a former real estate broker, was capable of supporting herself. He said she owed him money and that she had never lived in the Water Tower condo, preferring her “lifestyle” at homes in Lake Geneva, Wis., and Palm Beach, Fla.
His lawyers said much of what she incorrectly thought she knew was the result of her breaking into Arbor’s safe at the Water Tower condo, and they demanded she account for some $400,000 in U.S. and foreign currency she admitted removing.
Loza initially ruled against an injunction.
By the time Loza changed her mind in March, it turned out Arbor had cleared out his account at the Northern Trust Bank. He did so just days after she held him in contempt of court for his continued failure to pay temporary maintenance — and four days before she issued an injunction.
Under the circumstances, Arbor’s lawyers said it was “understandable” that Loza was “frustrated” with Arbor’s actions, but she went too far when she took the unusual step of not allowing them to cross-examine Vigilante’s witnesses at the hearing to finalize the divorce order.
Having only the incomplete court record on which to go — as neither side’s lawyers would discuss the case — I would deduce Loza was far beyond frustrated and more likely outraged by the way Arbor played her.
Arbor, a bold-faced name in the gossip and business columns who was never known to shy from publicity, could not be reached for comment.
His now ex-wife, who lives on North State Parkway, told me by phone that she welcomed the chance to tell her story but wanted to check with her advisers first. She later texted a “no comment.”
Arbor has long been known for his attachment to all things Italian, owing to his mother’s heritage. His father was Irish.
He learned to speak Italian, traveled there frequently and has been known to serenade friends with Italian folk songs.
A self-made man in the trading pits, Arbor spent his teen years at Mercy Home for Boys and Girls after his divorced mother, an alcoholic, committed suicide, according to press reports. He went on to become one of that charity’s most prolific fund-raisers through an annual boxing event pitting employees from the CBOT against those from the Mercantile Exchange. He still sits on Mercy Home’s board.
Arbor was chairman at the Board of Trade from 1993 to 1999 but has remained active in business since losing his chairmanship.
In recent years, Arbor has undergone treatment for recurring cancer and heart conditions, which Vigilante’s lawyers cited in one of their last warnings to the judge that “Patrick feels he may have little time left and nothing to lose.”
Looks like Arbor cornered the market on divorce court chutzpah.