Oklahoma oilman Harold Hamm is such a good businessman, it could cost him the biggest divorce settlement ever, according to court documents. More than $17 billion of his fortune could be subject to division with his estranged wife, says an economic analysis presented in their mostly secret divorce proceedings. The analysis of Kenneth Button, a PhD economist and expert witness hired by Sue Ann Hamm, was laid out in court testimony and in a document provided to Reuters by the judge in the case. Through his 68 percent stake in Continental Resources, Harold Hamm is believed to own the most oil in the ground of any American.
What caused Continental's impressive growth in value is critical to the outcome. Under Oklahoma law, any increase in the Hamms' net worth resulting from the active efforts of either spouse during the marriage is considered part of the marital estate. According to Button's report, the Oklahoma-based driller was valued at between $10 million and $50 million when the couple wed in 1988. It is now worth around $27 billion. Sue Ann Hamm's legal team contends that Harold's astute decision-making led to that growth. Harold's attorneys will try to show it was beyond his control. Attorneys for Harold Hamm and for Continental didn't respond to questions.