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Oil tycoon ordered to pay nearly $1B to ex-wife in divorce

| Nov 13, 2014 | Property Division

For wealthy couples going through divorce in Buffalo, dividing up the marital property can decide the fate of many valuable assets, including real estate, retirement accounts and investment portfolios. However, it is unlikely that anyone reading this blog would ever have to fight over a billion-dollar company, as an oil tycoon and his former wife are currently doing in Oklahoma.

A court there has ruled that Harold Hamm, CEO and majority owner of Continental Resources, owes his ex-wife $995.5 million, including $322.7 million by the end of the year. If this judgment is not overturned on appeal, it would make the ex-wife, Sue Ann Hamm, one of the wealthiest women in the U.S.

The ruling, however, grants Mrs. Hamm a fraction of what she argued she was entitled. Mr. Hamm’s stake in Continental is worth about $13.8 billion. His ex-wife contended that the stake is entirely marital property, and thus subject to division.

The judge’s reasoning at arriving at the $995.5 million figure is not clear. If it sticks, the ruling would be one of the largest divorce judgments in U.S. history,CNBC reports.

In cases like this, the parties often disagree on what is martial property, which in New York State is subject to equitable division, and what is separate property, which the spouses generally get to keep for themselves. Factors in this controversy can include whether a spouse owned the asset prior to the marriage, or whether the spouse acquired it during the marriage in a way that excludes it from the martial property pile. For example, inheritances and certain gifts may be separate property, even if the spouse obtained them while married.