Ex-wife of US oil baron is unhappy with $1.3 billion divorce award

Ex-wife of US oil baron is unhappy with $1.3 billion divorce award

Sue Ann Hamm, the ex-wife of Oklahoma oil magnate Harold Hamm who was awarded cash and assets worth more than US$1 billion (S$1.3 billion) in the couple's divorce this week, plans to appeal the judgment on grounds that it grossly undervalues the marital wealth she is entitled to.

Feeling shortchanged by a ruling that allows the Continental Resources chief executive officer to keep around 94 per cent of the estimated US$18 billion rise in his Continental shares during a 26-year marriage, Sue Ann Hamm will appeal within a few weeks, one of her lawyers, Ron Barber, told Reuters on Thursday.

She believes the decision was "not equitable," Barber said.

On Monday, Oklahoma County Court Judge Howard Haralson ordered the CEO, who is believed to own more oil than any other American, to pay his ex-wife US$995 million. The ruling allows her to keep additional assets, including a California ranch and an Oklahoma home, worth tens of millions more.

The Hamm v. Hamm divorce judgment is one of the largest in US history, but Sue Ann's award is a small fraction of the wealth Haralson allowed Harold Hamm to keep.

He holds more than 68 per cent of Continental's stock, a stake valued at around US$13.5 billion today. It was worth more than US$18 billion before the 9 1/2-week divorce trial began in August. Continental shares have fallen sharply since then, in line with global oil prices.

Haralson ruled that US$1.4 billion of the growth in his Continental shares during the marriage was "marital capital" to be split with Sue Ann. The rest was awarded to Harold as "separate property."

"Sue Ann is disappointed in the outcome of this case. She dedicated 25 years as Harold's faithful partner in family and business," Barber said.

A lawyer and economist, Sue Ann Hamm worked at Continental during stretches of the couple's marriage, which began in 1988. At one point, the ruling says, she was an executive in charge of Continental's crude marketing division. She left the company in 2008. At other times she worked in the home, helping to raise the couple's two children.

In Oklahoma, a divorce appeal can be heard by a State Court of Appeals panel or the Oklahoma Supreme Court.

A higher court could review the case and affirm Haralson's judgment, or modify the award. It could also send the case back to Haralson to be re-tried.

Family law experts say the process could take anywhere from 18 months to several years. Sue Ann Hamm has 30 days from when the ruling was filed, on Nov. 10, to appeal it.

As part of Monday's ruling, Haralson ordered Harold Hamm to pay his ex-wife more than US$322 million by Dec. 31, and continue with monthly payments of at least US$7 million until he covers an additional US$650 million balance. She has received around $23 million from the marital estate since filing for divorce in 2012.

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