Quintiles founder in divorce fight

Dennis, Joan Gillings splitting after 32 years

Staff WritersDecember 11, 2010 

Dennis and Joan Gillings, one of the Triangle's most influential couples in the worlds of business, education, philanthropy and culture, are waging a nasty divorce fight that could affect the future of one of the region's most successful companies.

Dennis Gillings founded Quintiles Transnational in 1982 and expanded it into the world's largest provider of contract research and other services for pharmaceutical companies. He filed for divorce from his wife in March, 10 days before their 32nd wedding anniversary.

Last month, Dennis Gillings agreed to pay his wife $1 million and $55,000 every three months. She will get their house on East Franklin Street in Chapel Hill and a house at Wrightsville Beach.

He'll get to use the beach house four weekends per year and will get the couple's condominium in Las Vegas, and properties in London and Hawaii. He'll also get a share of the couple's art and antiques collection, including paintings by Rembrandt, Picasso and Dali.

But their lawyers continue to spar over how to divide the couple's stake in Quintiles. The Gillingses and their family own about 24 percent of the company, which Forbes magazine estimated is worth about $700 million. Quintiles' revenue is expected to pass $3 billion this year.

The squabble could affect any plans Dennis Gillings has to attract new investors.

He said in a recent interview with Bloomberg News that he might be interested in an initial public offering of stock to raise money to expand in Asia.

Joan Gillings has asked for business information regarding Quintiles and PharmaBio, a related company, but has refused to sign a confidentiality agreement, according to court documents filed by Raleigh lawyer Wade Smith, who is representing Dennis Gillings.

Dennis Gillings' lawyers have said producing sensitive business information related to the request by Joan Gillings would cause Dennis Gillings "unreasonable annoyance, embarrassment, oppression, and undue burden and expense," according to court documents. Smith did not return calls for comment Friday.

Sensitive information in the case has been sealed in the court file in Orange County, and Dennis Gillings has requested that a protection order be placed on some court documents.

"This is a personal, family matter, not for public comment," Dennis Gillings said in a prepared statement Quintiles released Friday. "However, I do not believe this action will have an impact upon Quintiles' business or management of the company."

Case to draw out

The pair's divorce proceedings will continue into next year. A videotaped deposition by Joan Gillings is scheduled for Jan. 25 and 26 in Chapel Hill.

In court filings, Dennis Gillings alleges that Joan Gillings "emotionally abandoned" him, "excessively used alcohol or drugs" and "committed indignities which rendered [his] condition intolerable and life burdensome."

Joan Gillings' Raleigh lawyer, Robert Ponton, would not comment on the case. "Me and my partner, Whit Clanton, are representing Ms. Gillings, and that's all I can say," he said.

She has fought the divorce, filing a motion to dismiss the case in August.

Dennis Gillings co-founded Quintiles while the British native was a professor of biostatistics at UNC-Chapel Hill. The couple met while she was working on the staff of the UNC Department of Biostatistics, and they married in 1978.

Joan Gillings worked in real estate for a time, but spent much of her time serving on various boards, including those of the N.C. Museum of Art, the Morehead Planetarium, and UNC-Wilmington.

Over the years, they've supported many local causes. Their biggest gift was in 2007, when the couple donated $50 million to the UNC-CH School of Public Health, which was renamed the Gillings School of Global Public Health.

"They're just a tremendous asset to the school individually and together, and we're just very appreciative," said Ramona DuBose, director of communications for the school. "We have no reason to think that would change."

DuBose said both of the Gillings have remained involved with the school since their donation three years ago, and are always willing to offer their expertise and help. Joan Gillings is currently helping with fundraising efforts, and Dennis Gillings recently served on the school's advisory board.

In a 2008 story that ran in the school's Carolina Public Health publication, Dennis Gillings said his wife took the lead in family philanthropy, calling her his "human side."

In the same piece, Joan Gillings recounted how the couple had celebrated their 30th anniversary. Her husband gave her 30 roses, one for every year of their marriage. That had happened every year since she received a single rose on their first anniversary.

'Good friends of N.C.'

In May 2009, Quintiles, which now employs more than 23,000 people worldwide, held a grand opening for its headquarters building on the edge of Research Triangle Park. The building, adorned with the Quintiles logo, is visible from Interstate 40, and is home to about 1,400 local employees.

At the ceremony, Dennis Gillings gave a speech describing how he started the company at "mine and Joan's kitchen table" in a trailer on the UNC-CH campus. "We thought we hit the big time when we moved into a small house in Carrboro. We have come a long way baby, from that trailer," he said.

He thanked various people, and then introduced Durham Mayor Bill Bell, who introduced Gov. Bev Perdue.

"I was tickled to death to get the invitation from Dennis and Joan Gillings," Perdue told the crowd of Quintiles employees and others gathered that day. "They're good friends. And they're really good friends of North Carolina."

She noted that Dennis Gillings and Gary Koch made the decisions that started Quintiles in 1982. "But Joan Gillings was right there in that trailer, helping make it happen," Perdue said. "She's been right there every step of the way."

katelyn.ferral@newsobserver.com or 919-932-8746

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