A stolen kiss and hidden assets. The drama launched an international court battle over a disputed mega family fortune. How a Toronto penthouse came to be at the bottom of it is all the more mysterious.
Distressing End to 16-Year Marriage
When Sarah Pursglove spotted her husband kissing a Toronto interior designer in a taxi cab, her heart froze. The 47-year-old Palm Beach, Fla., mother of two was stricken with grief, court affidavits infer. Her anguish deepened as the struggle to get her share of their net family property unfolded. Unable to pay lawyers’ bills or care for herself and children after child support and spousal support payments were abruptly halted, she found her credit cards terminated.
Hiding Wealth From Spouse and Kids
How could it be? The couple made an estimated $415 million from Internet ventures during their 16-year marriage. But Pursglove’s husband, Ontario investor and Finnish businessman Bob Oesterlund (photo courtesy Facebook), claimed in Ontario Superior Court of Justice to have only $3 million in assets when she filed for divorce in 2014.
Toronto Condo Worth $32 Million
The facts didn’t support it. The court estimated he had at least $35 million, mostly in real estate, in Ontario alone. The pinnacle of his Toronto investments was a $30 million penthouse with adjoining $1.8 million nanny suite at the Four Seasons Hotel and Private Residences.
Living a Life of Luxury
Pursglove had everything a couple could desire. They travelled by private jet and yacht, shopping at luxury boutiques and wining and dining at Toronto’s Granite Club. They had personal trainers and designer clothes. Where did it all go so wrong?
Marital Affair, Separation Follows
The Welsh native’s dreams fell apart when she discovered Oesterlund’s affair with the Toronto designer. (The other woman claims they met after Oesterlund separated.) The damage was done. The wronged wife started divorce proceedings in Florida and began pursuing Oesterlund for equalization payments.
What’s Theirs is Hers
Rightfully, 50 per cent of what was theirs was hers. That’s when Oesterlund took over their joint bank accounts and sold shared property, Pursglove’s Ontario family court affidavits stated. Her spouse used trusts, corporate holdings and offshore bank accounts to secrete his wealth. His 2014 affidavit alleged she was exaggerating: “Sarah has made wild accusations about me of cutting her off and of trying to frustrate her claims.” All he was doing was moving assets from his many businesses into a trust, based on legal and accounting advice, he said.
When Balance Sheets Don’t Add Up
Yet the couple’s net worth far exceeded the brief financials and unvalued assets he filed with the court, Pursglove’s lawyers argued. Oesterlund had listed $415 million in assets when he purchased a private jet in 2013.
Floating in a Sea of Cash
Was it possible? Pursglove said it was. The couple’s fortunes took off in 2001 when they created an online web business. The former cruise line photographer and struggling Helsinki flower shop owner bought a $33 million yacht, one of three. Pursglove lived in their $5.2 million Boca Raton matrimonial home. They owned property in Helsinki, Wales and the Bahamas valued at over $20 million, plus the Four Seasons condo.
Freezing Assets to Protect Net Worth
Pursglove, who had once paid the couple’s rent with her credit card after a stock market loss, renovated the pricey Toronto penthouse thinking they would share it. A court froze Oesterlund’s Ontario assets in May 2014 to prevent them from being sold or transferred. The judgment was pointed.
“All of the Husband’s behaviour, that was set out in the Wife’s Affidavit material, point exactly to his treatment of his marital breakdown as a game, where the stakes are high, and where he has complete disregard for his children’s own best interests. He is essentially trying to try to drive the Wife to the proverbial “poorhouse” (Oesterlund v Pursglove, 2014 ONSC 3962, para 21).
They settled for an undisclosed amount.
Making the Tabloids in Spectacular Fashion
Most divorces aren’t splashed across The Daily Mail (June 11, 2017). But Pursglove and Oesterlund were no ordinary couple. As for Pursglove: “I would have been happy living with him in a small apartment, as long as we were together. I was naive not understanding how money can change people.”
Court Affidavits Won the Day
Pursglove had made her case for bad faith dealing. Her affidavits were the starting point in a tale of marital betrayal. Her husband’s credibility, on the other hand, suffered from a failure to make full and frank disclosure of corporate assets the couple had worked together to create.
Nothing But the Truth
Just like on the witness stand, evidence you give in writing has to be truthful. Affidavits are signed legal documents the court uses to make temporary and final orders. Your affidavit tells the court why you are there and what you want from the court’s decision. Like your marriage though, affidavits are complicated. The $98,000 for legal fees the court awarded Pursglove reveal just how messy it can get.
Draft an Affidavit for Ontario Family Court
Axess Law’s Ontario family lawyers help you draft affidavits for divorce court. Video conference online anywhere in Ontario, 7 days a week, day or evening, at your convenience. Experienced family lawyers meet with you in person at our Ottawa, Toronto, Scarborough, Vaughan, Etobicoke, Mississauga Winston Churchill or Mississauga Heartland law offices. Dial 1-877-522-9377 or in Greater Toronto 647-479-0118 or use our online booking form for an appointment.
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