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Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Canucks' owner settles messy divorce

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VANCOUVER -- An explosive divorce trial that had the potential to reveal intimate personal and financial details about Francesco Aquilini, a co-owner of the Vancouver Canucks hockey team and a member of one of British Columbia's wealthiest families, ended before it began Monday as Aquilini and his estranged wife announced a last-minute settlement.

The settlement eliminates the need for a lengthy and complex trial in a case that has already laid bare allegations of adultery and ran the risk of revealing previously unknown details about the Canucks ownership and the inner-workings of the Aquilini Investment Group, which owns the team and its arena in downtown Vancouver.

The terms of the agreement between Francesco and Taliah Aquilini will remain secret, but the settlement will not affect ownership of the Vancouver Canucks, which the Aquilini family business has owned for the better part of a decade, one of Francesco's lawyers confirmed.

"I am pleased to have a reached a negotiated divorce settlement with Taliah," Francesco said in a written statement that he posted on Twitter.

"This settlement means we will be able to keep our personal lives private and, most importantly, avoid the negative impact of a trial on the children we both love."

The Aquilinis were married in 1994 and have four children together. Francesco has a fifth child from a previous marriage.

The couple separated in January 2011, setting off a court battle over the custody of their children and the fate of millions of dollars in assets.

Taliah did not say anything as she walked into the courthouse on Monday morning and sat in a small hearing room that was already packed with journalists. After a brief appearance that lasted just a few minutes, Taliah declined to comment until the next court appearance, scheduled for Wednesday morning.

Francesco was not in court, nor was he required to be there.

The settlement was reached Sunday afternoon, just a day before the start of the trial, after five days of negotiations, lawyers involved with the case said. Some of the finer details still need to be worked out, but that was expected to be finished by Wednesday.

One of Francesco's lawyers, Karen Shirley-Paterson, said the couple's primary concern was protecting their children from a messy, high-profile divorce trial.

"It's better to settle than to air the concerns in public," Shirley-Paterson said outside court.

"They (the children) were first and foremost in the decision to settle and I think everyone is satisfied with the settlement, and it's good for the children and everyone concerned."

The four children from the Aquilinis' marriage currently live with Taliah in the couple's matrimonial home. While there was no formal order for child or spousal support, Francesco has been depositing money into a joint bank account each month to cover living costs for his estranged wife and their children, according to a previous court decision.

The intense public interest in the case -- relatively rare for a divorce proceeding -- was fuelled, in part, by the connection to one of Canada's seven NHL hockey teams.

But the case also offered a rare look into the complicated lives of a well-known, wealthy family, with details of expensive wine collections, fights over hockey tickets, and allegations of infidelity becoming instant headline fodder.

 

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 10, 2013 C2

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