Although the name Harold Hamm may not be as immediately recognizable as Antonio Banderas, Tiger Woods, or other celebrities we have discussed in our series Celebrity Divorce Chronicles, the Harold Hamm v. Ann Hamm divorce may be just as noteworthy, if not more noteworthy. Why? Because the Hamm divorce could prove to be the most expensive divorce in history.
As previously addressed in our series, the title of most expensive divorce in history is currently held by Russian oligarch Dmitry Rybolovlev, who was ordered to pay his ex-wife Elena Rybolovleva a settlement of $4.5 billion dollars when their divorce was finalized early this year. However, with an estimated net worth of nearly $20 billion, the divorce settlement between Harold and Ann Hamm could easily top the Rybolovleva settlement. Harold Hamm, who is currently listed by Forbes as the 45th wealthiest person in the world, is the founder and CEO of the oil company Continental Resources. But, during the course of divorce litigation, he may argue that he had no active part in earning his fortune in order to protect his assets in the divorce.
Harold and Ann Hamm were married in 1988, and in 2012 Ann Hamm initiated divorce proceedings against Harold in Oklahoma. Although the details of Ann's Petition for Divorce are not widely known, what is known is that she is seeking a division of the couple's marital property. Although disputed, the economic expert hired by Ann reports the couple's marital property totals approximately $17 billion, and is comprised largely of Harold's controlling stake in Continental Resources. Thus, theoretically, if the presiding court in the matter agrees with Ann's expert, Ann could stand to receive upwards of $8 billion in the divorce.
This is why Harold may argue he had no active role in earning his fortune, because the question of what should be deemed marital property all depends on how Harold made his fortune. If Harold successfully proves that the bulk of his fortune was generated due to the passive increase of his separate property, he may argue this increase remains separate property, and thus not subject to division upon divorce. Alternatively, if the courts finds that Harold's wealth was generated due to his active efforts, that increase would likely be deemed marital property subject to division.
Although to date there has been no indication that Harold plans to settle the divorce in lieu of seeking court adjudication, due to the risks associated with proceeding to trial, it would be advisable for Harold to settle, and possibly limit his financial exposure.