By John Clark
The fate of billions of dollars rests on the possible presence of a prenuptial agreement in the pending divorce case between a billionaire oil tycoon and his disgruntled wife, according to a report this week from Reuters.
Sources say Harold Hamm, a billionaire oilman from Oklahoma, has a personal fortune worth roughly $11.3 billion, which could be split in half if his second wife, Sue Ann Hamm, has a successful trip to divorce court.
Sue Ann Hamm reportedly filed for divorce from her husband several months ago, claiming that her husband had been unfaithful, sources say. But the couple has been tight-lipped about whether they signed a prenuptial agreement before their marriage.
According to sources, if the couple did not sign such an agreement, Sue Ann Hamm could leave the divorce with half of Hammâ€™s considerable fortune, earned over the course of several years from the profits of Continental Resources, which dominates the Bakken shale region in North Dakota.
In fact, the stakes are even higher for Harold Hamm. Sources say he stands to lose 68 percent of his stake in the company, which he founded in 1967.
And sources note that the wifeâ€™s potential payday, which could go as high as $5.3 million, would represent the largest divorce settlement in the history of American divorce.
The case, however, will turn on Oklahoma divorce law, which only requires an â€œequitable distributionâ€ of marital assets. This does not mean the couple will share their fortune. Rather, it means the court will decide how to apportion the assets using its own judgment.
Weighing in Sue Ann Hammâ€™s favor are several factors. First, the couple has been married for 25 years, which will likely be emphasized by the wifeâ€™s divorce attorneys.
In addition, the couple has had two children together, and Hamm has played an active role as a key executive at Continental Resources. Sources say she even created new marketing units for oil and gas from scratch.
The company itself has refused to elaborate on the divorce settlement process, saying in a recent statement that the divorce is a â€œprivate matterâ€ that is â€œnot anticipated to have any impact or effect on the Companyâ€™s business or operations.â€
For what itâ€™s worth, sources believe the largest prior divorce settlement involved Rupert Murdoch and his former wife Anna Mann, who reportedly received $1.7 billion after their separation, although other sources claim the settlement only involved the exchange of a few hundred million dollars.