Family court, even for the finest of families, is a stone bitch — and hell hath no fury like a crinkle cut chip heiress scorned.
I speak, of course, of the ongoing legal eye-gouger between torch singer Eleanor McCain, she of the obscenely wealthy frozen food family, and erstwhile Toronto Symphony Orchestra supremo Jeff Melanson. Married a mere nine months (April 2014-Jan. 2015), the fun couple remains locked in ugly post-marital combat over two and a half years later (Franks passim, ad nauseam).
At issue, whether Jeff’s entitled to a $5-million kiss-off, as per the marriage contract they signed two days before their ill-fated nuptials, payable within 120 days of a split in lieu of the usual spousal support, division of property, etc. That would amount to paying Jeff $555,555 per month of conjugal bliss.
The contract, it seems, was unlucky-at-love Eleanor’s idea, born sans doubt of her hard-won experience with two previous marriages (Patrick Bruce-Lockheart – 1993; Greg David – 1999) and two aborted engagements (Mark Hilson – 2008; Michel Fortier – 2010).
The lovebirds got independent legal advice and submitted sworn financial statements that left no question who wore the money belt in the relationship — Eleanor pegged her net worth at $365 million. Her 2013 income: $4.25 mil in tax-free dividends. Jeff’s 2013 take-home was $400,000, his net worth south of zero (-$456,702.77).
After Jeff dumped her, Eleanor applied for an annulment and the setting aside of that $5-million fuck-off fee on the grounds that he had “lied to her, deliberately misrepresented himself and tricked her into going through a ceremony of marriage with him.” (This despite wording in the agreement stating it applied even in the case of annulment.)
“If this Honourable Court is nevertheless inclined to consider Jeff’s claim to the $5-million or other pecuniary benefits, Eleanor seeks an immediate repayment/recovery of same as restitution for unjust enrichment and as damages for deceit and civil fraud.”
Eleanor has been swinging those bags of McCain family cash hard, papering him under with motions and excessive disclosure demands, complains Jeff in his own pleadings:
“Eleanor has put forth no evidence regarding what fees she has paid to her six lawyers to conduct this proceeding — including her use of various valuators, experts and private investigators.”
Among the all-star legalists on Eleanor’s payroll: Don Jack (Aird & Berlis LLP), Jacqueline Mills and Marie Henein (for it is she).
“Since the issuance of her Application, and consistent with the content of her pleading, Eleanor has attempted to make nearly every step of the case as difficult and costly for Jeff as possible. This is not a coincidence. Eleanor has assets that Jeff believes to be worth over half a billion dollars. Jeff is impecunious.”
And furthermore, your honour, “[s]ince commencing this proceeding, Eleanor has brought a total of five motions in either this court or Divisional Court. She has been unsuccessful in each one. Her first motion was to remove Jeff’s counsel, Mr. Harold Niman and Niman Gelgoot & Associates.”
No surprise there. Niman, after all, has made some serious dosh via the McCain family coffers. He represented Eleanor’s second husband, Greg, in their divorce a decade ago, and Eleanor’s sister-in-law, Trish, in her split from Scott McCain. He also manned the meat-slicer for Christine McCain in her split from Maple Leaf Foods CEO Michael McCain.
The motion to punt Niman obliged the cash-embarrassed Jeff to hire lawyers for his lawyer (step forward, Jonathan Lisus and Paul Michell of Lax O’Sullivan Lisus Gottlieb).
“When the Hounourable Justice Kiteley dismissed that motion (and granted Jeff’s cross-motion to strike various items that Eleanor had improperly filed), Eleanor appealed to the Divisional Court. Leave was denied by the Honourable Justice Sachs. Then she brought a motion for extensive financial disclosure in advance of Jeff’s motion for interim costs — her motion sought any items including the personal bank accounts and RRSP statements of Jeff’s girlfriend. That motion was dismissed by Justice Horkins.”
Meanwhile, Jeff’s unemployed, his tenure at the TSO torpedoed by Eleanor’s portrayal of him as a boozing womanizer and repeat sexual harasser, a remorseless manipulator who “ruled with an iron hand,” fired employees unjustly while engineering jobs for his legover companions (Laura Lynes at the Banff Centre, Caroline Drury at the TSO.) She also claimed that Melanson was dishonest, never disclosing to her that he cheated on his previous wife Jennifer, trolled cheat site Ashley Madison, and kept various alleged mental health issues from McCain.
Soon after McCain’s allegations were splashed on front pages of the papers, Melanson was out at the TSO.
He claims Eleanor played a “direct and indirect role in [him] resigning from the TSO due to various communications sent by her or on behalf of her to the Board of the TSO and by allegations made in her applications which were swiftly obtained by the media…the negative publicity has also had a secondary impact on [his] ability to obtain new employment across North America.” (He also believes Eleanor tipped off press hacks.)
“Regrettably, Eleanor has turned the proceeding into a hugely expensive sideshow. Her clear intention to harm Jeff professionally and personally has unfortunately succeeded. Despite being a flourishing executive in the arts world, Jeff has not been able to find employment since Eleanor initiated her application and since the media has been engaged. The Application is replete with various personal attacks against Jeff that have thus far made him unemployable.”
Not that Jeff didn’t get his digs in, too, describing the jazz chanteuse in court docs as a “self-funded amateur musician,” who used charitable donations for leverage in dodgy pay-for-play schemes:
“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.”
None of which had anything to do, bien sûr, with Eleanor’s triumphant double album, True North: The Canadian Songbook, a Canada 150 extravaganza on which she warbles out CanCon standards backed by, er, orchestras across the country. The opus’ spring launch did, however, keep Eleanor far too busy to attend to court matters, causing Jeff to whinge about more costly delays.
Horkins awarded Jeff $125,000 in interim costs in February, agreeing with Jeff that Eleanor had “created ‘as many cost-consuming obstacles as possible” in the case.
It seems that was quite enough out of Horkins for Eleanor, who in June applied to have the learned justice replaced by another judge ahead of Jeff’s upcoming motion for a summary judgment. She’s alleging bias.
Example: “Justice Horkins quotes directly from Mr. Melanson’s affidavit…that Ms. McCain had behaved in a bad faith and vexatious manner and was engaged in an effort ‘that would stop at nothing to ruin’ the Respondent…Whether or not these findings were germane to the particular issue raised, the continued reliance on these high adverse characterizations of Ms. McCain raises a reasonable apprehension of bias…A litigant in Ms. McCain’s position, facing the prospect that her rights will finally be determined by way of summary judgment, is entitled to have the matter adjudicated by a judge who has not yet formed a settled view as to the merits of her case.”
Whether or not Eleanor’s attempt to fire the judge succeeds where her attempt to fire Jeff’s lawyer failed, the summary judgment hearing is scheduled for Oct. 2-3. Should matters thence remain unresolved, the delightful couple has been penciled in for trial the weeks of December 4, 11 and 18. Good seats still available.