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'Business as usual,' Canucks chairman says as divorce case proceeds

The Aquilini Investment Group owned by, from left Paolo, Francesco and Roberto Aquilini pose for pictures in GM Place.


A British Columbia Supreme Court on Friday granted an order to declare that Francesco Aquilini, chairman of the Vancouver Canucks, and his wife Tali'ah "have no reasonable prospect of reconciliation with each other."

The couple, who were married in 1994, separated in January of 2011.

The Aquilini Investment Group owns Canucks Sports & Entertainment, which includes the Vancouver Canucks and Rogers Arena, the building located on prime land in the city's downtown core. The team is worth $300-million, Forbes Magazine estimated recently.

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Francesco Aquilini, the eldest of three brothers, runs the team. It is unclear what individual stake he has in the club, along with brothers Roberto and Paolo, and father Luigi.

In an interview, Mr. Aquilini said the hockey team would not be affected by the divorce proceedings.

"It's business as usual," Mr. Aquilini, 51, said in a telephone interview Friday afternoon after the court session concluded. He did not appear in court.

"This is a personal and private matter, and I hope the media will respect our privacy. It's really unfortunate. My wife and I are ending our marriage."

The question of the Canucks, operations and ownership, arise because of the recent fortunes of another prominent North American sports franchise, baseball's Los Angeles Dodgers. Frank McCourt, former owner of the Dodgers and their stadium, battled with his wife Jamie in their divorce proceedings over the fate of the team. The acrimonious and public fight landed the Dodgers in bankruptcy court. Mr. McCourt agreed to pay Ms. McCourt $130-million to relinquish any claim on the team. Major League Baseball took over the Dodgers last year and the team is being auctioned off through a court process.

Tracey Jackson, a lawyer for Tali'ah Aquilini, argued in favour of the granting of the order that declared irreconcilable differences between Mr. and Ms. Aquilini, section 57 under B.C.'s Family Relations Act. Jackson said the order was necessary to protect Ms. Aquilini's interests while the two sides discuss assets as their divorce proceedings unfold.

"It is a complicated structure," Jackson said of the Aquilini assets.

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Ms. Aquilini, 43, is the owner of the family home but otherwise has no stake in any significant assets, the court was told. The couple has five children, four of whom are younger than 18. After court on Friday, she would not say what her aims were, or why the case was proceeding publicly.

"It's just not appropriate for us to talk," Ms. Aquilini said as she walked with her lawyer.

Jackson said in court that she sought the order because there had been a "marked changed in behaviour and attitude" by Mr. Aquilini in recent months, as the parties worked through the divorce. The lawyer alleged there were questions about Mr. Aquilini's actions around "structuring" of his assets.

The two sides are scheduled to return to court April 3 for a judicial case conference, a mediation-type session. For such a conference, financial statements by attendees must be sworn.

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