The divorce of Vancouver Canucks co-owner Francesco Aquilini will not hurt the operations of the hockey team, wife Taliah Aquilini confirmed on Tuesday.
Francesco and Taliah Aquilini separated in early 2011, and the divorce proceedings reached the British Columbia Supreme Court in mid-March, when a judge granted Taliah an order that legally declared irreconcilable differences. Winning the order improved Ms. Aquilini's position as the two sides negotiate the division of assets.
In March, Mr. Aquilini told The Globe and Mail that the divorce would not affect the operations of the team, which he reconfirmed in an interview on Tuesday.
The question of the team arises because of the recent divorce case of Frank McCourt, former owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers. It was a spectacular process in which the team ended up in bankruptcy court. The club was then sold for $2-billion (U.S.) in an auction in late March.
On Tuesday, Ms. Aquilini spoke for the first time about her divorce. She released a written statement through her lawyer, saying that she "has no intention of upsetting the operation of the Vancouver Canucks." Ms. Aquilini added that she has "every confidence" in team management, citing president/general manager Mike Gillis specifically.
While day-to-day Vancouver Canucks operations are untouched by the divorce, the team and its arena will still play a central role in the proceedings. Canucks Sports & Entertainment is owned by Aquilini Investment Group, which is run by family patriarch Luigi, who is father to Francesco, his eldest son and Canucks chairman. Francesco's younger brothers, Roberto and Paolo, also hold senior roles with the Canucks, and in the family business.
It is unclear who owns what stake, in terms of the team and arena. The Aquilini family, which made its money in real estate, owns myriad assets, from property to a large blueberry/cranberry farm near Vancouver. The Canucks are believed to be the Aquilinis' single most valuable asset, with the team worth an estimated $300-million.
In the divorce proceedings, the two sides will debate what assets are at stake between Francesco and Taliah. Courts have considerable power in terms of deciding on matters of asset division.
A final settlement could be in cash, or involve an actual stake in the team. Majority control of the team is not believed to be at stake.
Ms. Aquilini's statement indicated she aims for her fair share after nearly two decades of marriage.
"In accordance with the property division laws of British Columbia, [Taliah Aquilini]is pursuing her legal rights to her proper share of the assets of this family," the statement says.
A negotiated out-of-court settlement remains possible.
The two sides had been set to appear in court on Tuesday for a judicial case conference, which is a private mediation-type session required as part of B.C. family law. It was adjourned and has not yet been rescheduled.
If the divorce is settled through the courts, the process could last upward of a year.