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Oil Baron’s Wife May Make Billions from Divorce


Posted on Mar 31, 2013

Continental Resources is America’s fastest-growing oil company. Founder and chief executive Harold Hamm is one of America’s wealthiest businessmen. Sixty-seven-year-old Hamm is currently estimated at having a worth of $11.3 billion and was recently ranked 35 on a Forbes list of the 50 richest Americans. Hamm was also named one of the most influential people in the world by Time Magazine. He served as senior energy adviser to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. 

Hamm has been married to 56-year-old Sue Ann Hamm since April 1988. The couple has two adult children. Hamm also has three children from a prior marriage.

In 2010, Sue Ann Hamm learned that her husband was having an affair. She filed for divorce on May 19, 2012.

During the marriage, Sue Ann Hamm held several key posts at Continental. She created Continental's oil and gas marketing units, testified before Congress on the company’s behalf, and led oil-industry trade groups in Oklahoma. According to Sue Ann Hamm’s lawyer, she is no longer with the company.

At this point, it isn’t known if the Hamms signed a prenuptial agreement. If there is no agreement, this could be a record-breaking divorce settlement. Currently, the largest divorce settlement is the $1.7 billion paid by News Corporation chairman Rupert Murdoch to his ex-wife Anna.

Hamm owns a controlling 68-percent share of Continental. Continental was subpoenaed and asked to turn over documents to the Oklahoma court. The company says the divorce will not have an impact on the company’s business.

Hamm founded Continental in 1967, 20 years before marrying the former Sue Ann Arnall. In 1990, Hamm helped discover the Bakken field of North Dakota, a discovery that led to a surge in U.S. oil production using hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. The Brakken field currently yields 700,000 barrels of oil a day.

Although Hamm founded the company before his marriage, the company expanded during the marriage and during the time that Sue Ann Hamm worked with the company. Oklahoma divorce law requires that wealth accumulated during a marriage be equitably distributed between both parties. The law looks at the contribution of each party, and it seems clear that Mrs. Hamm helped the company grow.

Hamm claims that he and his wife have been separated since 2005. Sue Ann Hamm's attorneys claim that the couple live together, attend social functions together, file joint tax returns, and work together. They have also made joint political and charitable donations.

The Continental stock has increased 500 percent since 2007. If the couple has truly been separated since 2005, the separation could decrease the value of the marriage settlement.

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