Oklahoma tycoon Harold Hamm, one of the top 100 richest men in the world, is making as big of an impact on the world of divorce as he has on the world of oil. The founder and CEO of Continental Resources is splitting from his wife of 25 years, Sue Ann Hamm and the first estimates place the costs to Harold at the $5-billion mark.
The couple has been estranged since Sue Ann claims she uncovered an affair Harold had in 2010. Divorce papers were filed in May 2012. There has been no clear evidence found of a prenuptial agreement between the couple. Provided no agreement is produced, Sue Ann would be entitled to "marital property" including 50% of Harold's 68% of controlling shares for Continental Resources.
The title for world's most expensive divorce is currently held by News Corp. founder Rupert Murdoch at the cost of 1.7 billion.
Aside from a missing prenuptial, the biggest contributing factor will be Sue Ann's contributions to Harold's success. She has acted as a lawyer, economist, and executive for Continental Resources and is even responsible for creating its oil and gas marketing groups. Such contribution is known as joint business ventures - and is a major point courts look to when dividing property. In absence of such direct corporate assistance, many could argue that they contributed to the household. It seems as Sue Ann has done both. Plus since much of the growth of Continental shares have occurred after the couple tied the knot, courts will view this as "shared growth".
According to a recent overview of the Hamm's tax situation, Forbes described the couple's tax situation. Internal Revenue Code section 1041 governs transfers between spouses and in the case of divorce. It supersedes previous case law, which taxed property acquired through divorce as taxable income. Because Harold has held his shares since he founded the company in the late 60s, his share of taxes each year is minimal. However, if now Sue Ann, after receiving 5 billion dollars worth of stock in her ex-husband's company, wants to sell the stocks for cash she will face massive tax burden
Lessons to Learn in your Florida Divorce:
Get a pre-nup. Harold is a smart business man and can calculate a risk. But this is also Harold's second marriage. Learn from him that even though you may think everything is going great in your relationship, you must remain prepared.
Consider your contribution. Contribute to the financial well-being of your household. Whether directly through business or at home, both will matter in court.
Don't misbehave. Some might think the fact Harold allegedly had an affair should not matter in a divorce, but it does. Even the most slight bias can affect how people view you.