“I don’t know of anything that’s ever been this big,” says one family law professor.
There are divorce settlements and then there are really big divorce settlements, and what the professor is talking about qualifies as the latter in uppercase.
For readers who might not have heard of the Hamms, here’s a quick introduction. Harold and Sue Ann Hamm were married in 1988, with Sue Ann filing for divorce last year. The couple is so rich that their divorce property division settlement promises to be among the largest — if not the biggest bar none — in history.
The Hamm dissolution is flatly a high-asset divorce affair. Harold Hamm was a major player from the outset in the energy breakthrough that began in earnest in the United States a decade-plus ago, as well as being a prime architect in the development of the massive oil reserves found in North Dakota and other states. Continental Resources, the company Hamm founded and is CEO of, is the fastest growing oil company in the country, and estimates peg Hamm’s personal wealth at more than $11 billion.
Commentators on the Hamm divorce say that Sue Ann Hamm will likely get a huge chunk of that money. Harold Hamm’s estranged spouse is an attorney and economist who insiders say played a major role for years along with Harold Hamm in growing the company. Oklahoma law controls in the case, and, similarly to Florida, that state’s law provides that accrued wealth in a divorce is distributed pursuant to an equitable property distribution scheme that considers what each spouse brought to the marriage.
Currently, the largest financial settlement on record is alleged to be the $1.7 billion paid by media mogul Rupert Murdoch to his former spouse in 1999. Pundits say that the Hamm settlement could eclipse that — by billions.
Source: Reuters, “Exclusive: Looming divorce could threaten oil baron’s empire,” Brian Grow and Joshua Schneyer, March 21, 2013