It’s not your typical Edina divorce.
Not when it includes Middle Eastern royalty, a former head of the FBI and the wealthy businessman who bought Neiman Marcus suits for Norm Coleman.
The monumental separation battle between Nader and Jibil Kazeminy has ground on for more than three years, involving four judges, dozens of attorneys, mountains of court documents and millions in legal fees.
The couple is already divorced. What’s at issue in the trial, set to begin Monday, is whether Jibil Kazeminy is entitled to continue living in the manner to which she’s become accustomed.
Veteran Minneapolis attorney William Skolnick, who represents Jibil, said he’s never seen anything like it.
“This case is not unusual,” Skolnick said. “It’s very, very unusual.”
Nader Kazeminy, 51, is the son of Nasser Kazeminy, an Iranian-born multimillionaire who surfaced as Coleman’s benefactor during his hard-fought 2008 U.S. Senate campaign against Al Franken.
Nader Kazeminy’s ex-wife, Jibil, 53, was born into a prominent Iranian family and fled the country as a teenager during the Islamic Revolution.
Court documents describe a life of extraordinary luxury for the couple: a $20 million apartment in Paris, a villa at a tropical resort, a $2.7 million Edina home a pitching wedge away from the Interlachen Country Club.
The family used a private jet for dozens of trips each year to exotic locations around the world, rubbing elbows with notables such as the kings of Jordan and Morocco, legendary auto executive Lee Iacocca and powerful government officials. Nader Kazeminy formerly served as a trustee of the elite Breck School in Golden Valley, which the couple’s two children attended.
Jibil Kazeminy is aiming to get a piece of the trust funds, holding tens of millions of dollars, created by her father-in-law for his son. But she may have to settle for merely a share of her husband’s $500,000 annual salary from family-controlled businesses — a tidy sum, to be sure, but perhaps not enough for regular trips to Paris.
‘Like a used Kleenex’
The Kazeminys were divorced in 2014, when a judge granted a dissolution of their marriage two years into the legal proceedings. Nader initiated the divorce, saying there was “an irretrievable breakdown in the marriage relationship,” that they had fallen out of love after many happy years. Jibil said she believes her husband “was done with me” and was interested in being with other women.
All that’s left, it would seem, is a fight about money — lots of money.
Court documents don’t reveal the full extent of the Kazeminy fortune. According to Jibil Kazeminy, the family is worth hundreds of millions of dollars. In court documents, Skolnick claimed that Nader Kazeminy’s two trust funds hold tens of millions.
But Jibil Kazeminy said the case is about much more than money: “For me, it is about my rights as a woman.”
She came to Minnesota to live with her sister, then a student at the University of Minnesota, and graduated from the Academy of Holy Angels in Richfield. She said that she gave up her career as a business executive to devote herself to family after she married Nader in 1995.
“I’ve been a faithful wife and a mother. That’s all I’ve been,” Jibil Kazeminy said in an interview at her Edina home, amid furnishings and artwork valued at more than $3 million. “I had a job and a future when I met [the Kazeminy family].
“Nasser would say to me, ‘Why are you working? What you make is a joke. Don’t you worry your pretty little head. You are the mother of my grandchildren. You will be taken care of for life.’
“Now I have been discarded like a used Kleenex.”
As the case has dragged on into its fourth year, Jibil Kazeminy has changed attorneys repeatedly, at one point even representing herself for several months.
Nasser Kazeminy drew widespread attention when he admitted giving gifts worth more than $100,000 — including suits from Neiman Marcus — to Coleman, then a U.S. senator. Nasser Kazeminy hired former FBI Director Louis Freeh to investigate the gifts; Freeh issued a report saying they weren’t illegal.
Days after Freeh concluded his investigation, court documents show, Nasser Kazeminy gave Freeh’s wife a half-interest in a penthouse condominium on Worth Drive in Palm Beach, Fla., perhaps the most prestigious oceanfront address in the wealthy resort area.
Chris Madel, an attorney for Nasser Kazeminy, said that Freeh in fact paid for half the condo. Madel said Nasser Kazeminy made the deal “because he likes to have everyone visit near his home in Florida and they all benefit from the anticipated appreciation in the property.”
Freeh later became a trustee of Nader Kazeminy’s trust funds, a job in which he apparently took little interest.
“He was not all that informed about anything,” a special magistrate handling the divorce case said in a hearing after Freeh testified about his management of the trusts.
Freeh isn’t the only powerful official in the Kazeminys’ orbit. The board of GreenZone Systems, a Kazeminy-affiliated company, includes former CIA Director James Woolsey and the nation’s first Homeland Security secretary, former congressman and Pennsylvania governor Tom Ridge.
“These are the kind of powerful people who are against me,” Jibil Kazeminy said.
‘A little bit shellshocked’
Nasser and Nader Kazeminy have fought fiercely against granting Jibil any settlement from the trust funds. In an affidavit filed in the case, Nader Kazeminy decries his wife’s “fixation on my father’s wealth,” accusing her of launching “a smear campaign” against his father and trying “to lure the court into a treasure hunt into my father’s assets and estate.”
“My father has successfully built a venture capital business on the basis of his own acumen and skill,” he said in the affidavit. “The fact that my wife does not have direct access to my parents’ wealth has been raised by her disparagingly many, many times during our marriage.”
Kazeminy’s affidavit refers to his wife’s “erratic and destructive behavior” and her “clear history of dramatization and self-aggrandizement,” recounting instances in which he claims she abused him and others both verbally and emotionally.
In two separate interviews last week, Nader Kazeminy expressed regret at the divorce and said he’s done everything possible to treat his ex-wife fairly.
They have had several unsuccessful settlement conferences; in the most recent one, Kazeminy said, he offered her all his possessions, including the Edina house and its furnishings, and half his salary for eight years — everything but his car, his daughter’s car and his own clothing. She refused, he said.
Jibil Kazeminy said she has never received a formal settlement offer, and so doesn’t consider his offers serious.
Nader Kazeminy said it would be unfair to paint him as some sort of “trust fund baby.” He’s worked hard his entire life, he said, since his first job at age 9 delivering newspapers.
“I’m just a little bit shellshocked,” he said. “For me, this is a very painful, private, personal matter. I don’t think divorce is really a new topic. I think the length of this one and the viciousness of some of the topics is saddening.”
Trust funds argued
Nasser Kazeminy has established trust funds for the couple’s children, courts records show, leaving Jibil as the only member of the family with no share of the family fortune.
“Everybody in this family has millions and I have nothing,” Jibil Kazeminy said. “I have no retirement, no income, no savings, no Social Security.”
What she does have is a warning to other women who give up their careers for their families.
“I’ve seen a lot of women out there,” she said. “This could happen to you.”