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August 15, 2001

Ottawa woman seeks record divorce payout

$10M lump sum and $100,000 a month

Glen McGregor
Ottawa Citizen

Dave Chan, Ottawa Citizen
Michael Potter, Alana Kainz and daughters Michaela, left, and Tennyson, in happier time.

OTTAWA - In a divorce action that could set a record for spousal support in Canada, a former journalist is seeking a lump-sum payment of $10-million and monthly payments of $100,000 from her estranged husband, Cognos software founder Michael Potter.

If granted, Alana Kainz 's claim would top the previous record for a support award: the $75,000 per month and a $1.3-million lump sum won this year by the former wife of a Toronto-area real estate developer.

But it is Ms. Kainz's and Mr. Potter's celebrity -- and the apparent acrimony between them -- that promises to make their divorce the most closely watched in Ottawa since Pierre Trudeau split with Margaret.

While many high-profile divorces are settled discreetly by lawyers, behind closed doors, Ms. Kainz appears set on litigating her case on the public record. Court documents filed by her lawyers last month reveal intimate details of a relationship that has fascinated observers since the couple began dating in 1995, after the shooting death of Ms. Kainz's first husband, sportscaster Brian Smith.

In her divorce application, Ms. Kainz, 36, accuses Mr. Potter, 57, of "misrepresentation" in the breakdown of their three-month marriage.

Ms. Kainz claims Mr. Potter deceived her into having children by promising a lifelong commitment if she became pregnant. But after the birth of their second child, Mr. Potter told her that "she was in the way of him having relationships with other women," she claims in the divorce application.

Ms. Kainz is demanding $5- million in damages for the alleged misrepresentation, plus another $5-million lump sum for support for herself and their two daughters, ages four and two.

Ms. Kainz estimates Mr. Potter's income at $10-million a year, a figure that afforded the couple and their children a lavish lifestyle when they lived together in his opulent home in Rockcliffe, Ottawa's most well-to-do neighbourhood.

When they separated in September, 1999, Mr. Potter agreed to buy her a $640,000 house in another part of town. But Ms. Kainz says her lifestyle was "drastically reduced" by the move. She describes the $15,000 a month in interim child support he pays as "grossly inadequate" and asks for enough money to move out of her home and buy a new house in Rockcliffe, to make the joint custody of their children easier to arrange.

None of the allegations made in the divorce application have been proven in court. Mr. Potter would not comment, but his lawyer, Gary Steinberg, said his client intends to defend the claim and has no intention of paying the $10-million Ms. Kainz demands.

Mr. Steinberg points to a marriage contract Ms. Kainz signed when she first moved into Mr. Potter's home in 1996. It stipulated that if the relationship ended before March, 2002, Mr. Potter would pay her a lump-sum settlement of $1-million. If they stayed together longer, until March 2006, the amount would rise to $2-million, and then to $4-million up to 2010 and $6-million beyond that.

Ms. Kainz argues in court that the marriage contract is "unconscionable" and says she signed only because of "repeated pressure" from Mr. Potter. After signing, she claims, he said his only commitment was to having children, not to a life with her. Ms. Kainz felt "duped and completely devastated," she says in the divorce application. She asks the court to have the agreement set aside.

Financial records submitted by Ms. Kainz show her only other income above the $15,000 support payments is $150 in stock dividends. But she spends more than $27,000 a month, including: $2,500 on babysitting, $3,000 on vacations, $2,000 on charitable donations, $4,200 on household expenses, $1,000 on clothing for herself, $2,000 on children's clothes and $1,000 on meals outside the home.

Mr. Potter, who is retired from his position as Cognos CEO, has an estimated net worth of $745-million, a statistic that made him and Ms. Kainz the objects of great media interest. They often appeared on the society pages with other high-tech glamor couples such as their neighbours, former Corel CEO Michael Cowpland and his wife, Marlen.

The birth of Ms. Kainz's and Mr. Potter's children and their subsequent marriage aboard a yacht off of Newport, R.I., were lavishly covered in Ottawa newspapers, while the demise of their relationship was charted in gossip columns.

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