Another scorching salvo in McCain v. Melanson, the high-stakes family court throwdown of the season.
As reported in the gutter press, french fry heiress Eleanor McCain last month accused her estranged husband Jeff Melanson of being a boozing, ruthless manipulator who “tricked” her into marriage because he wanted her money and an escape route from sexual harassment accusations at the Banff Centre.
In a 34-page application for annulment, McCain, a jazz chanteuse and daughter of Wallace McCain, late billionaire co-founder of McCain Foods, portrayed Melanson as a remorseless manipulator who “ruled with an iron hand,” fired employees unjustly and provided jobs for his legover companions.
Barely a week after McCain’s allegations were splashed on front pages, Melanson was punted from his high-profile gig as president and CEO of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra.
Now he’s telling his side of the story and it ain’t purty. He’s hired Harold Niman, the ubiquitous Toronto divorce shark.
Niman has a long history with the McCain family. He represented Eleanor’s previous husband, Greg David, in their divorce a decade ago, along with Eleanor’s sister-in-law, Trish, in her divorce from brother Scott McCain. He also acted for Christine McCain in her divorce from Michael McCain.
Highlights from Melanson’s answers, filed in Ontario Superior Court last week :
“Eleanor has used her pleading as a means of disseminating false and unseemly accusations against Jeff that have damaged him professionally and personally. That is exactly what Eleanor intended. A smear campaign against him, under the guise of requesting an annulment.”
Describing his ex as a “self-funded, amateur musician,” Melanson claims the couple first met in the fall of 2006 at the request of her father Wallace to discuss Eleanor’s music career. Jeff says he introduced Eleanor to senior members of the music recording industry at Wallace’s behest.
In the section of his filings entitled “Eleanor’s Artistic and Financial Dishonesty,” Melanson claims:
“Early on in the marriage, Jeff overheard Eleanor speaking about a fundraising gala. Eleanor was suggesting she make a cash “donation” to the gala for a tax receipt on the condition that the gala organizers use her cash donation to buy hundreds of copies of her albums that would be given away to attendees. Jeff inquired about the legality of such a transaction and was told by Eleanor that she often used her wealth for such opportunities.
“Eleanor also stated that this was the only way for her to get her sales count higher, as she was selling very few albums and those sold were mostly to family and friends. In reality, Eleanor does not have an artistic career, but rather buys opportunities for herself and loses money on her ‘artistic’ endeavors.
“In the months following the marriage, [Eleanor] would often brag about her work with orchestras across the country.
“Given her very low album sales, Jeff inquired about how she would approach these orchestras as he was curious about how she acquired these professional opportunities that seem difficult for others to acquire.
“Eleanor eventually admitted to creating a scheme in which she would make a cash donation to orchestras on the condition that they use the funds to hire her for a professional engagement. As she explained, she would then secure a prominent engagement, receive a tax receipt and donor recognition for her gift, and then required the orchestra to use the same funds to pay herself and her band.
“Jeff was surprised to hear that this scheme could function legally and was concerned for the many legitimate artists who were deprived of opportunities that Eleanor would buy with her wealth.”
Melanson describes Eleanor’s construction in the summer of 2014 of a “large home in Hackett’s Cove, NS:
“Adjacent to the land Eleanor purchased was land with a public beach used for decades by local residents and their families. Eleanor abhorred the locals generally, and was disgusted that the local ‘low lifes’, as she would describe them, could use ‘her’ beach. In Jeff’s time there, he only witnessed a few locals ever on this beach and he could not understand why Eleanor would make this such a huge issue. Eleanor asked Jeff for his help on this issue. He hesitantly agreed.
“Eleanor [decided] to continue exploring legal options to keep the local residents off of the beach, and discovered that the shoreline belonged to the public. Jeff and Eleanor had an argument over her treatment of the local residents. Eleanor vowed to take whatever steps were necessary to get the locals off of her beach.
Eleanor and the kids
“Eleanor’s mean-spirited and vindictive actions toward Jeff’s children ultimately led to the breakdown their marriage. Following a visit with Eleanor’s and Jeffs children in summer 2014, Eleanor stated that she ‘felt like she wanted to kill’ [Jeff’s] children. She indicated that she was desperate to have more children and it enraged her that Jeff had children with another woman. This was extremely unsettling to Jeff.
“Jeff had moved back to Toronto from Banff to be closer to his children. Early in the marriage, Eleanor decided that she did not want Jeff’s children to stay in their matrimonial home during their visits with him. This was deeply upsetting to Jeff. He tried to reason with Eleanor, but she would not change her mind on this issue. She assured Jeff, however, that her position regarding his children living with them may only be short-term.
“As a result of Eleanor’s demands, Jeff was forced to rent a condominium in downtown Toronto to be used during his weekend visits with his children.
“To make matters worse, later in the summer of 2014, Eleanor inexplicably and suddenly took a strong disliking to one of Jeff’s children. She declared in the early fall that she would not move forward with the friends and family celebration of their marriage – planned for November 22, 2014 – if this one child of Jeff’s was permitted to attend.
“Eleanor’s refusal to accept the importance of Jeff’s children led to weeks of arguing between the parties.
“This period of time was very discordant for all involved, but most severely for the child targeted by Eleanor. Still, despite all attempts by Jeff and other professionals to reason with her, Eleanor was adamant about not allowing this child to attend the marriage celebration. Jeff made further pleas to Eleanor to reconsider her position, but she did not do so. Ultimately, the child was not permitted to attend the wedding celebration.
“Following the November 22 family celebration, the marriage was in severe distress. Eleanor once again dismissed Jeff’s wishes and designed a family Christmas card that presented their new ‘family’. Eleanor designed a Christmas card and purposefully chose a photo without the child whom she disliked. She designed the Christmas card cover without Jeff’s approval. While this obviously greatly upset Jeff and his family, Eleanor’s actions most severely traumatized the young child.
“Jeff, his three children, and his parents were invited to the McCain family compound in Jamaica over the 2014 Christmas break. Eleanor again demanded that this one child be excluded from the trip. Jeff adamantly refused and said he would not go on this trip without all of his children. Eleanor would not relent, saying that she is ‘always right,’ she ‘always wins’ and would refer to her extensive wealth. She eventually barred all of the Melansons from the Christmas trip.
“Sadly, Eleanor is a vengeful, angry person with extreme wealth and incredible amounts of rage. What follows is a summary of Eleanor using her extreme wealth to bully and intimidate Jeff personally and professionally:
“In April 2015, Jeff began hearing from past colleagues, past romantic partners and friends that they had been contacted by a private investigator hired by Eleanor. Individuals approached by this private investigator were told no expense would be spared and that this private investigator would ‘fly anywhere in the world to meet them’ to try to collect damaging information about Jeff.
“Jeff has been advised that this private investigator continues to contact anyone associated with Jeff, his family, and his current girlfriend. His current girlfriend has also told Jeff that she has been photographed while jogging.
“In April 2015 Eleanor began a campaign of intimidation aimed at the TSO. Bullying letters began being sent to each individual member of the Board of Directors of the TSO. Eleanor said she would ‘take down the entire TSO if she had to.’”
“These letters were clear attempts to disrupt and tarnish the professional life of Jeff.
“Eleanor, her friends and associates have also directly approached members of the TSO Board of Directors to tell her vastly contorted version of their marriage story and to malign Jeff professionally.
“Eleanor has historically told Jeff that it is easy for her to influence reporters given the financial fragility of the traditional media business.
“In July 2015, Eleanor spoke to a newspaper, the Toronto Star, and lied to the newspaper about many key aspects of the marriage breakdown with Jeff. She misled the newspaper about how many marriages she had before Jeff; she told the reporter she has only been married once before Jeff, when in fact she had been married twice.
“She told the reporter that Jeff had ended the marriage by email when in fact it ended in person in and immediately following a couples’ therapy session with Sheila Rodger Fauscher.
And furthermore, “Assertions that Jeff used the Ashley Madison website are untrue fabrications.
“Nor is Jeff an excessive drinker. He did not ‘deliberately’ hide his drinking from Eleanor as there was nothing to hide.
“Jeff does have periodic bouts of stress-induced insomnia. They are not related to E’s assertions of stress related to sexual harassment.
“Jeff has not been diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder…
“Jeff has never bragged that he could get any woman he wanted.”