US oil tycoon's ex-wife rejects $1.3b divorce cheque

US oil tycoon's ex-wife rejects $1.3b divorce cheque

OKLAHOMA CITY - It is a princely sum that even some real princes do not have.

But apparently, US$974.8 million (S$1.3 billion) was not enough for the former wife of Harold Hamm, chief executive officer of oil driller Continental Resources, the top driller in North Dakota's oil boom.

Sue Ann Arnall, who is embroiled in a bitter divorce with Mr Hamm, rejected his handwritten cheque for that sum, lawyers for both sides said on Tuesday.

Mr Hamm's offer would have paid her - immediately - the full cash value of what he owes based on a November divorce ruling by an Oklahoma County judge. The lawyers said Ms Arnall did not want to accept the cheque for fear of hurting her appeal of that decision.

Michael Burrage, Mr Hamm's lawyer, said in an e-mail message that Ms Arnall could still cash the cheque if she wants to, and the former husband had borrowed funds to ensure there would be enough cash in his account to cover it.

Mr Hamm's offer to pay his former wife should stop the interest of more than US$93,000 a day that has accrued on the award since November, his lawyer said.

One of Ms Arnall's lawyers, Ron Barber, said that she has no plan to cash the cheque as accepting Mr Hamm's payment could hurt her appeal.

Ms Arnall, 58, and Mr Hamm, 69, both appeared in an Oklahoma court on Tuesday, in part seeking to clarify how much of the November award to the former wife should be made available to her pending appeals in the case.

Oklahoma County Judge Howard Haralson did not offer a dollar amount.

Both parties have appealed against the November divorce judgment. Appeals are set to be heard by the Oklahoma Supreme Court, Reuters reported earlier.

Ms Arnall, a former Continental executive who was married to Mr Hamm for 26 years, contends that her award of around US$1 billion in cash and assets was inadequate and allowed him to keep the lion's share of a fortune that her lawyers valued to be as high as US$18 billion.

Mr Hamm's appeal contends that the US$1 billion award was too steep.

He had already paid his former wife more than US$20 million during the divorce proceedings.

Mr Hamm has lost billions of dollars tied to the value of his 68 per cent stake in Continental in recent months, which his legal team blames on the sharp fall in oil prices.

The duelling appeals are the latest twist in one of the largest divorce cases in United States history. The contest pits America's biggest owner of oil against an attorney former wife intent on showing that the Hamm fortune stemmed from hard work - both his and hers - during the marriage.

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