Former Couple Battle in Court Over $30-Million Yorkville Condo
Monday Apr 13th, 2015
FORMER COUPLE BATTLE IN COURT OVER $30-MILLION YORKVILLE CONDO
High Stakes Battle Between Separated Couple Comes Down To This:
Who Gets The Penthouse at The Four Seasons
In Sarah Pursglove's own words, she lived a "luxurious and privileged lifestyle" during her marriage to Robert Oesterlund. That would not be an exaggeration.
The European couple, who made their fortune primarily through Internet ventures, and their two children travelled often - usually aboard their private jet and three yachts - to Puerto Rico, Florida, Tokyo, St. Maarten and other desintations. They shopped at high-end stores, drove luxury vehicles, hired personal trainers and private tutors for the kids, were members of Toronto's Granite Club, and bought lavish properties around the world.
The crown jewel of their wealthy matrimonial life - Pursglove says she and her husband were worth more than $400 million - was attained in 2011, when the couple decided to settle down in Toronto and purchased the $30-million penthouse at the Four Seasons Hotel and Private Residences, the most expensive condominium in the country.
But just months before the sale closed last April (2014), Pursglove, 45, alleges in court documents that she learned that Oesterlund, 42, had a continued affair with another woman, a Toronto-based interior designer named Azadeh Banai.
"My only comment here is that these allegations are false," Banai told the Star in an email. "There was no 'continued affair' as I met Robert (Oesterlund) just after his separation from Ms. Pursglove in February 2014. Robert is a wonderful person and anyone who has ever met him would also agree that the allegations made against him are also incorrect."
Since the separation, Pursglove and Oesterlund has been waging an international, high-stakes court battle not only over custody of their children, but over the treasures Pursglove says they scored in 16 years of marriage - most notably the penthouse, a 9,038 SF palatial suite on the top of the 55-storey building at Bay and Yorkville.
All of the allegations in this story, as well as the description of Pursglove's previous lifestyle, are contained in affidavits and other court documents. None of the allegations have been proven in court. "The allegations in the litigation are disputed and will be dealt with fully in court," one of Oesterlund's lawyers, George Karahotzitis, told the Star in an email. "We do not intend to try this case in the media."
The case is acrimonious to say the least, and as one might expect when dealing with the rich and not terribly famous, it's complicated. "All Sarah wants is what is fair," one of her lawyers, Harold Niman, long considered one of Canada's most high-powered divorce attorneys, told the Star. What Pursglove wants, specifically, can be found in thousands of pages of documents crammed into two boxes stored in the basement of Toronto's Superior Court building.
Aside from custody issues, both parties want a divorce and an equalization of net family property - essentially splitting it in half. At issue is the size of the estate to be split.
In his own affidavits, Oesterlund has denied Pursglove's allegations, including that he cut her off financially following the separation and that he is concealing assets through a complex web of trusts, corporate entities and offshore bank accounts.
The case has moved slowly, nudged along by an army of lawyers who have appeared before half a dozen judges. Recently, Superior Court Justices Victoria Chiappetta and Susanne Goodman were appointed to be the case managers and bring it to a resolution, which could take years.
When Welsh-born Pursglove met Oestrlund, a Finnish citizen, in March 1996, their bank accounts were not exactly overflowing with cash.
She was a photographer working aboard a cruise line and he "co-owned a small flailing import-export flower company based in Helsinki," according to a factum filed last May by Pursglove's lawyers that is based on information from her affidavits. Oesterlund's May 2014 affidavit says, "I am a technology entrepreneur and, by the time Sarah and I were married, had already achieved success in building a profitable business."
The two were married on November 18, 1998, in Dominica, and have two daughters.
According to Pursglove's documents, she gave up her career at Oesterlund's request, and in the late 1990s they made several attempts at establishing businesses in the United States. They managed an apartment complex, which they later sold, and used the proceeds to set up a small online mailing business, "TravelAwardsClub".
There were many financial ups and downs in those years, according to Pursglove. "Around this time, Robert lost a significant sum of money in the stock market and the parties were, again, struggling to make ends meet. At lease once, Sarah was forced to pay for their rent on her credit card," reads the factum.
Things began to look up in 2001. The couple moved to Key West and set up a banner and ad revenue company, as well as "a web-based business," which became known as Inbox.com, Inc. and Xacti, LLC.
"This was the start of their financial success. The corporations expanded at a rapid pace," reads the factum.
The documents say that Pursglove was "integral to the establishment of the corporate entities and contributed to the growth of the parties' net worth." The factum says that she worked full time in the office - assuming longer hours once the children were in school - hired and trained new employees, managed accounts and was responsible for organizing corporate events.
As the money began to pour in, the couple spread their wealth around the globe.
Pulsgrove "always had an unlimited access to funds and money was never an issue," according to her January 15, 2015 affidavit.
She said she and Oesterlund owned two 2009 Princess 62-foot yachts, each valued at about $1.2-million, and a 2000 165-foot Feadship yacht named Deja Vu, valued at $33-million and that costs approximately $200,000 per month to operate and maintain. They also used to own a 2007 Citation Cessna CJ3 business jet. The current ownership status of the yachts is unclear.
As if to underscore the immense value of the Deja Vu, Pursglove says in her affidavit: "I believe that Feadship yachts like Deja Vu are usually owned by wealthy Sheiks, princes and prominent individuals." She said the couple had a 12-member crew for the yachts, including a captain, engineers, stewards and a chef.
Among their fleet of vehicles, she listed several Mercedes, a Porsche, a Volvo, two snowmobiles, a Dutch Lion motorbike, two Segways and golf carts.
And then there are the properties:
- The matrimonial home in Boca Raton, FLR, where Pursglove currently lives with the children; valued at about $5.2-million
- Two houses in Helsinki; valued at $8-million and $2-million
- Two properties in the Bahamas; one of which valued at $10-million
- An apartment in Wales, where Pursglove's mother lives, worth about $185,000
- And the two properties at the Four Seasons - the $30-million penthouse, where Pursglove says Oesterlund lives and a $1.8-million 'nanny suite'
- Total Real Estate Holdings Are Estimated Near $60-million
Oesterlund's financial statements indicates only the Bahamas property and the Wales home, claiming they are 100% his.
The 2011 purchase of the Four Seasons penthouse, with its 12-foot ceilings, four terraces and massive wine cellar, had Toronto society buzzing, not only because it was the most expensive condo ever sold in Canada, but because the owners remained anonymous.
"The developers are not saying who the new buyers are, only that they are 'international'," the Star's Tony Wong wrote that year.
Speculation was so rampant that the Star published a list of potential buyers, which features names such as Mexican telecom mogul Carlos Slim Helu, then worth $74-billion (US), Oracle's Larry Ellison, Lady Gaga or Oprah.
On April 21, 2011, Robert, acting as the alter-ego for OP Property Managements, LLC, entered into an Agreement of Purchase and Sale for the Four Seasons Penthouse for $30-million, $15-million was paid as a deposit, and a further $8-million was spent on renovations, according to documents filed by Pursglove's lawyers. On May 1, 2014 the balance of the purchase price was paid cash and title to the property was taken by Valion Holdings, LLC, a corporation in which Sarah has no ownership interest. Pursglove alleges that Oesterlund is the president of Valion Holdings.
She said the family lived in the smaller suite while work began on the penthouse. The documents go on to say that Pursglove was "heavily involved" in the renovations to the penthouse. "She made the property a 'home,' believing it would become one of the family's shared residences," read the documents.
The case has become ugly at times. What happens in the end will depend on the entirety of the case. It will be lengthy.