Floridians who pay attention to Forbes' list of Global Billionaires may be familiar with Harold Hamm, founder of Continental Resources and number 68 on the list. Hamm made the news recently when an Oklahoma District Court Judge ruled in Hamm's favor in his divorce proceedings. The divorce filings for Hamm and his wife became public last year, and the trial phase of the divorce is expected to begin in July. As is the case in most high net worth divorces, Hamm stood to lose a lot of money depending on what the judge considered to be marital property and pre-marital property.
On Feb. 13, the Oklahoma judge held that 122 million of Hamm's approximate 126 million shares of Continental that he had acquired before marriage were in fact "pre-marital," granting partial summary judgment on this issue. Although Hamm expressed that he was confident that the shares were pre-marital property, the shares were worth a significant amount of money and carried a lot of power with them; losing them would have been a blow to Hamm.
If the judge had found that the shares were marital property, Hamm would have given up his controlling interest in his company, and there would have been a change in management for Continental. As it stands, Hamm owns a 70 percent equity stake in Continental. Hamm himself is estimated to have a net worth around $14.6 billion.
Continental shareholders were also relieved by the judge's ruling since Continental has been doing well under its current management team. Continental grew its oil production in 2013 and now produces over 144,000 barrels per day. Although Hamm had a lot to lose, a married person does not need to be a billionaire to have concerns about possible business losses in a divorce. Consulting with a family law attorney may be a good idea for those business owners or other individuals with high assets who have concerns about their pre-marital ownership interests.
Source: Forbes, "Judge: Billionaire Hamm To Retain Control Of Continental Resources In Divorce Settlement", Christopher Helman, March 04, 2014