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Denny Hecker is still tied to his debts for now, but he's no longer tied to his wife.
The former auto mogul and his wife, Tamitha, were granted a divorce Thursday, ending their 15-year marriage. Hennepin County District Court Judge Jay Quam set aside the remaining financial issues between the two for a later trial. Denny Hecker said co-parenting arrangements for the couple's two children are expected to continue.
The order ends a tumultuous marriage that involved allegations of extramarital affairs, flashy living and hidden assets. In issuing the order to immediately dissolve the marriage, Quam called the case complicated.
"Not only has the divorce been more contentious than most, but there has been a much longer history of ambivalence about the marriage. Specifically, this is the third time the parties have come to the court asking that their marriage be dissolved,'' the first two having ended in reconciliation, the judge wrote.
Quam noted that Tamitha recently asked the judge to reconsider the case in light of complications that could arise should Hecker marry Christi Rowan, his girlfriend of two years. Quam also had to weigh whether to uphold a prenuptial agreement Tamitha signed in October 2008. Tamitha Hecker wants the agreement enforced, while Denny Hecker wants it invalidated.
"There needs to be a trial to determine which side is right," Quam wrote in his order.
Reached at his office, Hecker said he was glad to get the news.
"I am just tickled pink to untie the rope from the anchor. Look, there has been way too much drama. Nobody cares. When you read the order, you can almost read between the lines that the judge [was just saying,] 'Look, I am doing this for the community,'" Hecker said.
Tamitha's attorney said she hadn't received a copy of the order and could not comment.
Citing an "irretrievable breakdown of the marriage," Tamitha Hecker filed for divorce in July, seeking $15 million and sole custody of their two children, then ages 14 and 8. In an earlier divorce filing in October 2008, financial documents showed Hecker's total business and personal net worth as of August that year was about $192 million, including about $96 million in debts.
But when Denny Hecker filed for bankruptcy in June, he told the court he had no money to pay alimony because he had been forced to shut or sell 26 of his dealerships and put his auto leasing business in bankruptcy after Chrysler Financial pulled his credit line. Bankruptcy records report Hecker as having $767 million in debts and $18.5 million in assets. Hecker's mansions in Crosslake and Medina and smaller properties across the country are being sold by the court.
In October, Tamitha, 42, filed new court documents demanding $7,500 in monthly support. She said Denny Hecker's claims of having no money were false, and he had leveraged all the couple's personal assets to Chrysler Financial without her consent or knowledge. She also claimed Hecker was hiding assets and living a lavish lifestyle that included dining out most nights at pricey restaurants with Rowan.
Hecker countered by making phone calls and sending e-mails to reporters claiming Tamitha was living it up with a young boyfriend in Arizona.
Last month Quam ordered Hecker to pay Tamitha $7,500 a month once the divorce became final. Quam noted Hecker lived extravagantly for someone claiming to be bankrupt and noted that Hecker transferred significant sums of money to Rowan. In bankruptcy records Hecker reported transferring more than $58,000 in cash, a $60,000 fur coat and other gifts to Rowan since January.
"If Mr. Hecker can manage to provide his romantic companion with $30,000 per month, the court believes that he can pay $7,500 to the mother of his children," Quam wrote last month.
On Dec. 10, Quam further grilled Hecker over what became of the $125,155 in 401(k) money that Hecker cashed out without notifying Tamitha. Hecker apologized to the court and said he needed the money because of expenses associated with roughly 11 lawsuits in which he is involved.
Hecker is being sued by Chrysler Financial and eight other creditors for defaulting on loans and is accused of committing fraud to obtain larger loans and guarantees than he was otherwise entitled to. Hecker has denied wrongdoing.
On Wednesday, several of Hecker's bank creditors asked the bankruptcy court to postpone until Jan. 15 all hearings on motions that Hecker not be allowed to escape his debt due to the fraud allegations.
Attorneys from Cornerstone Bank, Alliance Bank, Vision Bank and Carlton Financial Corp. told the judge they want to see whether bankruptcy trustee Randy Seaver will also oppose any discharge of Hecker's debt. Seaver is expected to make his decision by Jan. 15.
Dee DePass • 612-673-7725