Sex charges fly in Menard-Hilbert legal battle

Stephen Hilbert with his wife, Tomisue
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A lawsuit claims billionaire hardware kingpin John Menard pressured the wife of a business partner to have sex with Menard and his wife and retaliated with firings and lawsuits when she turned him down.

Menard's attorney says Menard categorically denies the claims by Tomisue Hilbert.

She accuses Menard in a lawsuit filed May 29 with extortion, battery, assault and breach of fiduciary duty for actions including the sacking of her husband, Stephen Hilbert, as CEO of Indianapolis-based equity funds that the Hilberts and Menard founded in 2005.

Menard won a preliminary injunction in a Wisconsin court removing Steve Hilbert as CEO of the MH Private Equity Fund LLC.

Menard attorney Kevin Tyra says his client "categorically denies" Tomisue Hilbert's allegations and that Menard's actions in connection with the funds were justified.

"Ms. Hilbert and her husband betrayed Mr. Menard's trust. They mismanaged the assets and resources entrusted to them, and incurred wildly inappropriate expenditures. It is because the Hilberts were such poor stewards of what was entrusted to them that a court had to remove them from positions of responsibility, as acknowledged in para. 93 of Ms. Hilbert's Complaint," Tyra wrote in a statement to Eyewitness News.

"All that Mr. Menard, and various companies such as Australian Gold which the Hilberts had been mismanaging, have been attempting to do since discovering the depth of the problems Mr. And Ms. Hilbert caused has been to recoup at least some of the losses the Hilberts created. Ms. Hilbert's Complaint appears to be a reaction to these justified actions."

MH Private Equity Fund LLC had been shrinking its holding after a split between Hilbert and John Menard, the founder of Menard's. He was a major investor in the fund and his company is now suing for $10 million in damages.

Hilbert became one of Indiana's best-known and highest-paid business executives in the 1990s when he was chairman of Conseco. After a bitter, public three-year battle, Hilbert agreed to settle a nearly $250 million suit stemming from loans he took out from the company as its CEO. It was a major victory for the Carmel-based insurance company.