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Aquilini divorce trial averted as parties settle quietly

Tali’ah Aquilini, centre, leaves B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver on Sept., 9, 2013.

Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press

With the puck set to drop on his high-profile divorce case, Vancouver Canucks co-owner Francesco Aquilini reached a settlement with his estranged wife Tali'ah, ensuring that the personal and financial information threatening to spill out at trial will remain secret.

The settlement was reached late Sunday afternoon after five days of negotiations and was formally announced inside a packed room at B.C. Supreme Court on Monday, when the potentially salacious trial had been expected to begin.

Tali'ah Aquilini had already accused her husband of adultery and although the judge said the argument wouldn't be permitted, details might have emerged.

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On the business side much is unknown about the Aquilini Investment Group and the case appeared poised to shed some light on its holdings and value, which has been estimated to be in the billions but has not been clearly stated.

The confidential settlement, however, ensures that information will remain out of the public eye. The deal will have no bearing on the hockey club.

Mr. Aquilini was not in court Monday, but issued a statement that said he was "pleased" with the agreement.

"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," he wrote.

The Aquilinis wed in 1994 and had four children. They separated in 2011. Mr. Aquilini has a fifth child from an earlier marriage.

The Aquilinis had been deeply divided on the custody of their children and the division of assets, both in terms of which assets should be considered and how they should be divided.

Ms. Aquilini did attend Monday's hearing but declined comment until Wednesday, when the order is expected to be finalized.

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Karen Shirley-Paterson, one of Mr. Aquilini's lawyers, spoke with reporters outside court and said the settlement provides relief for all involved.

"His first concern was protecting the children and the extended family members and he's achieved that goal so it's best for everyone," she said.

Ms. Shirley-Paterson said she didn't believe the level of media interest in the case played a role in the decision to settle. But when asked whether she was worried about the adultery allegations, she said a number of claims were made by both parties and "of course it was a concern."

"It'd be a concern for any case but with a case like the Aquilinis where the public attention and media scrutiny is so intense, of course they'd want to settle it. Lots of factors played into the decision to settle," she said.

Mr. Aquilini is one of five partners – along with his parents and two brothers – in the Aquilini Investment Group, a holding company that controls a network of corporations and business interests. The company purchased half of the Canucks in 2004 and the other half two years later.

Aside from the Canucks, the company's holdings include Aquilini Development and Construction, which is behind several condo developments in Vancouver and elsewhere. The investment group also owns Golden Eagle Group, which controls a sprawling section of agricultural land in Pitt Meadows, east of Vancouver, that is home to a golf course, tree nursery, blueberry farm and cranberry farm.

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Georgialee Lang, a lawyer who has worked on family law cases for 25 years, said she wasn't surprised the parties settled at the last minute.

"These cases don't go to trial. They're just too big, there's too many personal things on, there's too much information," she said.

She said a wife in B.C. would typically receive 50 per cent of the assets, but it might never be known what Ms. Aquilini received.

With a report from The Canadian Press

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