Updated: November 9, 2013 6:29AM
Former Chicago Board of Trade Chairman Patrick Arbor was never bashful about telling people he had an unconventional marriage, which may help explain why he is now involved in such an unconventional divorce.
As I reported Sunday, Cook County court records indicate Arbor has fled the country, taking tens of millions of dollars with him in an effort to keep his now ex-wife, Antoinette Vigilante, from getting the money in a divorce settlement.
There’s even a bench warrant here for Arbor’s arrest as a result of his repeated violations of court orders, a dramatic turnabout for the politically connected businessman long considered part of the city’s power elite.
Neither Arbor, 76, nor Vigilante, 56, is discussing the case, but court records shed light on some of the “War of the Roses” enmity that might have led Arbor to take the money and run after 16 years of marriage.
A vacation home in Lake Geneva, Wis., was a particular point of conflict between the pair, who each had been married previously.
Vigilante routinely stayed there with her family, including her disabled mother. Arbor complained his family wasn’t welcome.
Vigilante borrowed more than $2.3 million against the Lake Geneva property to finance her real estate development business, then ran into trouble making the payments after the real estate crash. Arbor complained the home was purchased without his knowledge or consent and that he didn’t even know where it was for nine months.
It was Judge Pamela Loza’s order that Arbor come up with a cash payment to help Vigilante keep from losing the Lake Geneva property in foreclosure that may have triggered his final decision to transfer his funds out of the country — as Vigilante had been warning for months. The $79,887 payment, which his lawyers had helped negotiate, was intended as an advance on her share of the marital estate.
Just last week, another judge finalized her share of the estate at $10 million — and awarded her another $8 million in maintenance.
Long before Vigilante filed for divorce from Arbor the first time in 2003 (that case was dismissed in 2009 when they reconciled), Arbor was in the newspapers joking about how he and his wife lived apart.
It was an arrangement well-known to most who knew the couple.
Arbor maintained a condominium on the 52nd floor of Water Tower Place.
Vigilante kept a series of homes on the North Shore, which Arbor attributed in court documents as a product of her real estate business. Vigilante, a real estate broker and developer, specialized in “flipping” homes, he said.
In an affidavit, Arbor said Vigilante never lived with him “full-time” at any point during the marriage, which is why he contends she should have no claim to the Water Tower condo.
He changed the locks the day after she filed for divorce, but explained that was mostly because he discovered she had “looted” $400,000 from his safe. She said the safe had been kept secret from her. Neither explained in court how she managed to get inside it.
She attempted in court to paint a different picture, saying she split her time as a “homemaker” managing their residences in Chicago, Lake Geneva and Palm Beach, Fla., and as a full-time caregiver to him after he was diagnosed with cancer in 2010.
In court records, Arbor bristled in particular at those assertions.
While conceding that she assisted him “sporadically” while he was receiving radiation treatments in the summer and fall of 2010, he said she hadn’t helped him at all during two extensive cancer operations that year.
“Rather she chose to enjoy her ‘lifestyle’ down in Palm Beach, Fla.,” he told the court.
Arbor also argued that Vigilante, with her real estate experience, could support herself after the divorce and that he shouldn’t be responsible for paying maintenance.
“Antoinette has the capability of earning an income, but instead has focused her efforts on her self-described ‘lifestyle’ and on spending money rather than earning it,” Arbor wrote in an affidavit.
Arbor said he was retired and that his income was only $180,000 a year, most of it from investment dividends.
Vigilante said that over the course of their marriage Arbor “historically” gave her $6,000 to $8,000 a month for expenses plus $500 a week “walking around cash.”
Arbor is believed to be in Europe, possibly Italy, where he has established citizenship. Reuters reported over the weekend that it had reached him by phone, and when asked his whereabouts, he said was in Europe.
But some also believe that Arbor, since leaving Chicago, has spent some of his time in Mexico, where he bought a place for his adult children.
It almost makes a person appreciate not having money.