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Divorce may cost former Potbelly CEO his shares in company

People often comment on how difficult divorce is for those of limited means. But the fact is, divorce does not have to be expensive - but it can be equally taxing for wealthy people if they are not careful as they go about the process. Nor does divorce have to be a hurtful process. Sometimes, working with a mediator can make it go much more smoothly.

Take the case of former Potbelly Sandwich Works LLC CEO and current chairman Bryant Keil. Keil has displayed a knack for business, helping the Chicago-based sandwich chain grow to $250 million in annual revenue and grab enough market share to challenge other sandwich giants like Subway and Jimmy John's. He has displayed less finesse in his divorce from his wife Sheila Keil, however.

The two are in the process of an acrimonious divorce that has spanned three years. Sheila Keil has accused Bryant Keil of failing to support the couple's four children, who are between the ages of 4 and 12, and of decimating a bank account she held in her name. She wants the court to order her soon-to-be-ex-husband to look for a job and to keep a log of his efforts to gain employment. She has hinted that she thinks Bryant Keil did not voluntarily step down as Potbelly CEO in 2008, but rather quit to make his financial condition appear leaner in the divorce proceedings.

For his part, Bryant Keil has said he has had to borrow $3 million from relatives to maintain his homes in Chicago, Lake Forest and Harbor Springs, Michigan. He has also said he may have to sell some of his Potbelly stock to meet Sheila Keil's financial demands.

Naturally, most Lake County couples do not have three homes and need millions of dollars to make ends meet. What they can learn from this story, though, is that bitterness and animosity make divorce all that much harder. Separating is not easy, but if you can go about the process thoughtfully and respectfully - and with the assistance of competent and experienced counsel and/or mediator - you are less likely to find yourself in a bitter dispute such as this.

Source: Crain's Chicago Business, "Potbelly's Bryant Keil in divorce battle, seeks buyer for shares," Shia Kapos, 20 June 2011.

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