Oil tycoon ordered to pay ex-wife $1.3 billion

Oil tycoon ordered to pay ex-wife $1.3 billion
Continental Resources Chief Executive Harold Hamm.

An oil magnate has been ordered to pay nearly US$1 billion (S$1.29 billion) to his ex-wife in one of the largest US divorce judgments, according to a court filing.

Oklahoma Special Judge Howard Haralson ruled that Mr Harold Hamm, 68, should pay his ex-wife US$995.5 million.

Although the award could make Ms Sue Ann Hamm, 58, one of the 100 wealthiest women in the US, according to Forbes' rankings, it is far smaller than the amount her lawyers sought and does not require Mr Hamm to sell shares of his company Continental Resources.

During the trial, the ex-wife's lawyers had asked Judge Haralson to split a marital estate estimated to be worth at least US$17 billion, tied up in Continental shares. Judge Haralson's ruling is subject to appeal.

Mr Hamm's Continental stake is worth about US$13.9 billion, down from more than US$18 billion before the trial began.

Continental is a leading driller in the Bakken Shale play of North Dakota and Montana, the largest US oil discovery in decades. Through his stake, Mr Hamm is believed to own more oil underground than any other American.

The Hamm judgment is among the biggest on record.

SHARES

In a 2010 divorce settlement, casino magnate Steve Wynn agreed to transfer 11 million shares in Wynn Resorts, then worth US$741 million, to his ex-wife Elaine, according to filings with the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

Judge Haralson ordered Mr Hamm to pay his ex-wife about a third of the funds, or US$322.7 million, by the end of this year.

He will be required to pay the rest of the judgment, or US$650 million, in instalments worth at least US$7 million per month.

She has already been awarded around US$25 million from the marital estate since the case was filed in 2012, the court said.

Among the assets that will go to the ex-wife are the couple's US$$17.5 million ranch in Carmel, California, and a US$4.7 million home in Oklahoma City.

Judge Haralson's ruling may come as a relief to some of Continental's other shareholders, who had been worried that a multi-billion dollar award could force Mr Hamm to sell a major chunk of the company quickly, potentially depressing the value of the shares or eroding his control of the firm.

Under Oklahoma law, the enhancement of wealth that comes as a result of the efforts, skills or funds of either spouse is subject to "equitable distribution".

Over the 26-year marriage, the value of Continental soared some 400-fold. During the trial, Mr Hamm's legal team contended that Continental's growing wealth was mostly due to passive or market factors such as the rising price of oil.


This article was first published on November 12, 2014.
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