Marriage Inc., Is Harold Hamm’s Billion Dollar Divorce Settlement Too Much or Too Little?
On Monday, Harold Hamm, the 68-year-old CEO and majority shareholder of Continental Resources, reached a dubious milestone. After a highly contested 9-week divorce trial, presiding Judge Howard Haralson ordered the 24th wealthiest person in the United States to pay a settlement of $1 billion to his ex-wife, Sue Ann Hamm.
The couple married in 1988. At the time of their marriage, Harold Hamm had amassed a multi-million dollar fortune. Sue Ann Hamm was working as a lawyer for Continental.Years later, Mrs. Hamm became aware of her husband’s marital infidelity. By 2007, the wife of the oil magnet had installed a number of surveillance devices to establish proof of her husband’s extramarital activities. According to court records, one surveillance bill amounted to $9,866.09.
The courtship and marriage came as Harold Hamm was actively securing land leases for drilling in Montana, North Dakota, and Canadian areas of the Bakken Formation. The Bakken proved to be tremendously successful. However, this would ultimately come with a price as one of the central aspects of the Hamm divorce trial.
Real Time Net Worth: $14 Billion $229.9 M
Title: Chairman and CEO, Continental Resources
Source Of Wealth: oil & gas, Self Made
Self-Made Score: 10
Residence: Oklahoma City, OK
Citizenship: United States
Marital Status: Divorced*
Education: Diploma, High School
Source: Forbes, 11/11/2014, 8:00AM EST[/important]
At issue was whether Harold Hamm’s fortunes at the Bakken resulted from luck or industrial skill in speculative drilling. The state of Oklahoma sets aside fortunes amassed through luck (i.e., chance). Thus, throughout the trial, Mr. Hamm’s legal counsel sought to convince Judge Haralson that their client, an individual responsible for leading a major corporation, simply stumbled upon the Bakken. It was a steep mountain as under Hamm’s leadership, Continental outputs 10,000 barrels of oil per day; roughly 10 percent of U.S. output.
Ultimately, Judge Haralson was not persuaded.
Consequently, Mrs. Hamm will receive one of the largest divorce settlement ever recorded. An amount so large that Judge Haralson placed a lien on 20 million shares of Continental stock.
The Hamm divorce reveals some interesting aspects of American society and raise a number of profound questions:
- First and foremost is the question of how does one amass a level of wealth that rivals that of small nations? Harold Hamm is a real life rags-to-riches. He grew up poor as the 13th child to sharecroppers. Many, however, might ask, “What of others, perhaps African Americans, who might have come from similar background but with similar abilities? Would the story of Harold Hamm’s rise feature opportunities that would have been extended or withheld from other groups?”
- The CEO achieved remarkable success without having a college degree. This suggests that part of America’s path to moving out of economic stagnation involves making tangible opportunities for persons who finish their education with a high school diploma.
- Despite our fixation with wealth, Harold and Sue Ann Hamm demonstrate that being one of America’s wealthiest does not shield individuals (or marriages) from the snares of dysfunction and discord.
- Is the billion dollar settlement “fair”? Did Harold Hamm pay an excessive price for divorce? Or should Sue Ann Hamm have received an even larger share of the $14 billion estate?
[important]Hamm v. Hamm Settlement
Approx. Assets – $25 million
Homes in Nichols Hills and Enid, Ok.
Ranch in Carmel Valley, Ca.
Corporate Ownership Stake ($3 million)
97.2% stake Orbit Gas Transmission ($3 million)
Payments ($972.7 million, $23 million already paid)
$322.7 million by the end 2014
$650 million ($7 million per month)
Source: The Oklahoman (NewsOK.com)[/important]
Related Reading: The Memorandum Order in the Hamm Divorce
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