An Oklahoma oilman’s billion-dollar divorce

By: | Published: November 12, 2014 12:00 AM

During his nearly 50 years as an Oklahoma oil man, Harold Hamm has done everything on a huge scale..

During his nearly 50 years as an Oklahoma oil man, Harold Hamm has done everything on a huge scale.

The chief executive and majority shareholder of Continental Resources, he owns the largest piece of the greatest oil discovery of our age, in the shale-rich plains of North Dakota. His net worth has been pegged at more than $18 billion by Forbes, making him the 24th richest man in the US.

Now another superlative can be added to Hamm’s outsized career: He is paying one of the biggest divorce settlements in history. After a secretive, nine-week trial, a judge in Oklahoma City has ruled that the 68-year-old Hamm must pay nearly $1 billion to his ex-wife, Sue Ann Hamm. With the bang of a gavel, Sue has joined the ranks of the wealthiest women in the US.

Or rather, she will join those ranks over time. The judgment requires Hamm to pay his ex-wife about $320 million, or one-third of the total settlement, by the end of 2014. The rest is to be paid in chunks of at least $7 million a month. For a little perspective, that figure is slightly larger than last year’s salary of the chief executive of US Steel.

Messages left with Continental Resources and with a lawyer for Sue Ann Hamm were not returned.

Harold Hamm was just another middle-aged multi-millionaire when he married Sue, his second wife and a woman a decade his junior, in 1988.

At the time, Sue was a lawyer at Continental and Hamm was just beginning to snap up roughly one million acres of land leases in North Dakota, Montana and parts of Canada in what is the Bakken formation.

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