Largest Divorce Settlement Ever? $5 Billion at Stake

Oil tycoon could lose control of his company to jilted spouse

Harold and Sue Ann Hamm at the Time 100 gala last April. (Photo: AP) Harold and Sue Ann Hamm at the Time 100 gala last April. (Photo: AP)

It’s enough to make any Certified Divorce Financial Analyst salivate, or any jilted spouse, for that matter.

Society pages are burning up over the ongoing details of the split between oil billionaires Harold and Sue Ann Hamm. Sue Ann accuses Harold of infidelity, and if no prenuptial agreement exists, as Reuters speculates in a comprehensive piece on the breakup, the latter could not only lose $5 billion, but also control of Continental Resources, the company he founded in 1967.

On Forbes’ 2013 World’s Billionaires list, Harold is worth $11.3 billion, “the vast majority held in shares of his oil giant Continental Resources, the biggest player in the booming Bakken shale region of North Dakota,” the magazine reports. No billionaire divorce settlement Forbes has uncovered over its years of tracking the super-wealthy comes close to that sum, it adds. It would easily top the list of AdvisorOne’s 5 Super Costly Divorces of the Rich and Famous.

Forget the children—think of the shareholders. Since news of the Hamm divorce broke, analysts have puzzled over the long-term implications for Continental’s stock, according to Forbes. The following statement appeared on Continental’s website on Thursday:

“Today, Harold Hamm has announced that a petition for divorce is pending in the District Court of Oklahoma County. This private matter has not and is not anticipated to have any impact or effect on the Company’s business or operations.”

Sue Ann Hamm is a former executive of Continental.

Reuters compares the Hamm case to that of the media tycoon Rupert Murdoch, who reportedly paid $1.7 billion to his ex-wife Anna Murdoch in 1999.

Court records show that Sue Ann Hamm petitioned for divorce in May, but Reuters provides an earlier timeline that details a rocky marriage for well over a decade.

  • The news service notes that in 1998, Harold Hamm filed for divorce and demanded that Sue Ann undergo a psychological evaluation. He later withdrew the divorce petition and the case file was ordered destroyed this year, on Feb. 13, according to Oklahoma court records. What prompted the destruction of the file is unclear. In 2005, Sue Ann Hamm subsequently filed for divorce; that case also was dropped.
  • Reuters adds that her 2005 divorce filing is now a key issue in the Hamms' divorce battle, according to a court document reviewed by Reuters. Indeed, it could play a pivotal role in determining how property—including interest in Continental—will be divided, legal analysts said.
  • According to Harold, the couple "actually separated in the fall of 2005 and have lived separate lives ever since," Reuters says, citing court documents.
  • But Sue Ann Hamm's attorneys counter that the Hamms "continued to reside together (although they do own four homes), travel together, attend public functions together, raise their children together, file joint tax returns and work together."

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Check out 5 Super Costly Divorces of the Rich and Famous at AdvisorOne.

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