This week, it was reported that the wife of one of the country’s wealthiest and most influential businessmen has filed for divorce. Sue Ann Hamm, the wife of Harold Hamm, chief executive of the country’s fastest-growing oil company, Continental Resources, reportedly filed for divorce in May 2012 and the split has turned contentious.
According to court documents obtained by Reuters, Sue Ann Hamm decided to pursue the divorce two years after she learned her estranged husband was “having an affair.” Sue Ann Hamm, who is a lawyer and former executive at Continental Resources, could be awarded a historic settlement in the divorce as her husband’s estimated worth is $11.3 billion.
At this point, it is unclear if the couple has a prenuptial agreement. If there is no agreement — or the agreement is thrown out — the divorce settlement could easily be the largest in United States history, legal analysts say. The couple has been married since 1988, so it is likely that Sue Ann Hamm is entitled to a large sum of her husband’s fortune.
Harold Hamm founded Continental in 1967, which was 20 years before he married Sue Ann. But it wasn’t until the 1990s that Continental achieved great success after Harold Hamm helped find the Bakken oil field in North Dakota, which is the country’s biggest oil discovery in several decades.
Legal analysts say it is possible that Sue Ann Hamm could be awarded up to half of Harold’s controlling 68 percent share of Continental, if it is determined to be martial property that she had a role in developing. The divorce is taking place in Oklahoma, which, like Minnesota, follows equitable distribution laws.
This means all martial property is to be divided fairly and equitable, but not necessarily equally, upon divorce. It is likely that the couple will fight over whether Harold Hamm’s share of Continental is separate or martial property. Harold Hamm’s share in the company is currently worth $11.2 billion.
Source: Reuters, “Exclusive: Looming divorce could threaten oil baron’s empire,” Brian Grow and Joshua Schneyer, March 21, 2013