Back in 1999, News Corp. founder and chairman Rupert Murdoch reached a remarkable $1.7 billion settlement with his ex-wife Anna, making it the largest divorce settlement ever reported. Interestingly, legal experts are now saying that this record-breaking settlement could soon be surpassed thanks to a pending divorce between an oil tycoon worth billions and his second wife.
Sources indicate that Sue Ann Hamm filed for divorce from Harold Hamm, her husband of over twenty years, in an Oklahoma court back on May 19, 2012. While the documents in the divorce case are sealed, a filing made earlier this month accuses Harold Hamm of having an affair that started back in 2010.
For those unfamiliar with Harold Hamm, he is the chief executive of Continental Resources, one of the fastest growing oil companies here in the U.S., which controls the majority of drilling leases in the Bakken oil field in North Dakota. Forbes recently named Hamm — who owns 68 percent of Oklahoma-based Continental — the 35th richest person in the United States with an estimated $11.3 billion in wealth.
In Oklahoma, any wealth/assets accumulated through the efforts of either spouse during the course of a marriage are subject to an equitable, but not necessarily equal, distribution upon divorce.
This means that Harold Hamm’s 68 percent stake in Continental — which has seen its share prices jump by almost 500 percent since an initial public offering five years ago — could change dramatically in a divorce.
Compounding matters further is the fact that Sue Ann Hamm, an economist and attorney, worked for Continental as an executive for many years, creating marketing units, testifying before Congress, and leading industry groups.
“She has a leg up because she worked for the company and she can claim that a portion of her efforts went into making the company what it is today,” said one prominent family law attorney unconnected to the case. “She was married to him when the value of the company went up. She has got to be looking for a couple of billion dollars.”
Interestingly, attorneys for the two sides will gather in an Oklahoma courtroom in May to argue as to whether the couple has been separated since 2005, a year in which Sue Ann Hamm filed for divorce but later decided to drop her case.
This is significant because whether the couple effectively separated in 2005 will have a huge impact on the date of valuation of the business and, by extension, the value of Harold Hamm’s assets that are subject to division.
Stay tuned for updates on this fascinating case from our Ft. Worth family law blog …
To learn more about dissolution of marriage, property division or other divorce-related issues, contact an experienced and skilled legal professional.
This post is for informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice.
Reuters, “Billionaire oil baron Harold Hamm’s divorce could result in record-breaking payout,” Brain Gow and Joshua Schneyer, March 21, 2013
ABC News, “Hamm divorce could be most expensive of all time,” Steve Osunsami, March 23, 2013