The most expensive divorce in history might be happening now, as Continental Resources chief executive Harold Hamm and his wife Sue Ann are in the process of determining how they will split his $11.3 billion fortune.
Sue Ann Hamm filed for divorce on May 19, 2012, alleging that he was having an affair she discovered in 2010.
Harold, 67, is a leading force in the U.S. oil industry and served as the senior energy adviser to Mitt Romney.
He was named one of the most influential people in the world by Time magazine, and Forbes listed him as one of the 50 richest Americans.
Sue Ann worked closely with Harold throughout their marriage, holding key posts at the company and leading oil-industry trade groups in Oklahoma. She is no longer working with the company according to her lawyer.
They were married in 1988 and had two children together, Jane and Hilary, who are now adults. Harold has three children from another marriage that ended in 1987.
It is not clear if the couple signed a prenuptial agreement, but legal analysts say that without one, the divorce could turn out to be a record-breaking financial settlement, exceeding the $1.7 billion Rupert Murdoch paid to his wife Anna in 1999.
The money could be split in many different ways. One way might result in the split of “marital property,” including dividing Harold’s 68 percent stake in Continental.
“I don’t know of anything that’s ever been this big,” Barbara Atwood, professor of law at the University of Arizona, said. “There’s just so much money involved.”
After the divorce was made public, Continental shares were down 2.1 percent. Once Harold confirmed the divorce proceedings, they fell even more.
Because his company’s growth mainly occurred during the marriage, Sue Ann has a good chance at acquiring the money.
Under Oklahoma law, money gained through the efforts of either spouse during the marriage would be distributed equitably between them.
“A court in Oklahoma may look closely at what each party has contributed,” a legal specialist said. “But it sounds to me like both spouses here were working hard in the business.”
“Where there are concerns about company control in a settlement, a spouse would usually get paid the value of the shares. This is going to be really interesting.”
It appears the couple have been living apart for years, as they “actually separated in the fall of 2005 and have lived separate lives ever since,” according to a court document.