Harold Hamm, the Chief Executive and majority shareholder of Continental Resources, has been ordered to pay $1 billion dollars to his wife in a divorce settlement by a court in Oklahoma. It is estimated Harold is worth more than $18 billion dollars. Forbes magazine has named him as the 24th richest man in the United States. This $1 billion dollar settlement is in addition to the $25 million dollars he has already paid to his wife during the course of the divorce litigation.
Once his wife receives this money, she will become one of the richest women in America. The money is to be paid on the following payout schedule: $320 million dollars by the end of 2014; thereafter $7 million dollars a month until the entire balance is paid.
Mr. Hamm is known as a very crafty businessman. However, he did not obtain a prenuptial agreement prior to going into this second marriage. A prenuptial agreement would have saved him almost $1 billion dollars!
Mr. Hamm married his wife Sue Ann in 1988. She was ten years younger than him. He was a multimillionaire at the time he married her. His wealth came from purchasing more than 1 million acres of land leases in North Dakota, Montana and parts of Canada. This area is known as the Bakken Formation. This area has some of the largest shale oil deposits in the world. The use of fracking and horizontal drilling allowed Mr. Hamm to develop the oil fields that other oil men thought were worthless.
Oklahoma Law and Divorces
Under Oklahoma law, the money one party to a marriage earns is part of the marital estate for divorce purposes only if it is made through that individual’s skill. In the event the increase in assets relates to “changing economic conditions or circumstances beyond the parties’ control,” the money is not subject to being distributed between the spouses. In this case, Mr. Hamm a very accomplished and successful businessman, claimed that he was just lucky to buy the 1 million acres where the shale oil reserves were located. Unfortunately for him, the judge on the case found his success was due to his skills and efforts which increased the value of Continental Resources, the oil company in which he was the largest shareholder.
Russian Oligarch Divorce
This is not the largest divorce payment by a man to a woman in history. A Russian oligarch named Dmitry Rybolovlez recently paid his wife Elena $4.8 billion dollars in a divorce settlement.