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The 'King Kong' of divorces may involve 20 billion dollars


What is being described as the “King Kong of divorce cases” is being litigated right here in Oklahoma City. Billionaire oil magnate Harold Hamm and his soon-to-be ex-wife Sue Ann Hamm are divorcing after 25 years of marriage. The trial just concluded its second week, where the primary issue will be how to divide the couple’s estate, which is valued at more than $17 billion, thanks to the prominent rise of Continental Resources, the oil company Hamm founded in 1967. 

The fortune amassed by the Hamms through the oil company is to be apportioned based on Oklahoma’s equitable distribution laws, but the two sides are trying to argue competing positions as to how the fortune was created. Mr. Hamm, on the one hand, insists that the company merely benefited from dumb luck, and essentially that the hydrofracking system to reach deep reserves of oil was just a benefit of happenstance. Because of that, the majority of the company (and the fortune) should not be evenly divided.

Mrs. Hamm, on the other hand,  contends that it was her husband’s skill and wisdom that built the company, and that knowledge should lead to the estate being equitably divided, as the fortune is a result of work and effort that is generally viewed as marital property.

While many Oklahomans will not have to answer questions such as these when dividing property, it is an example of why skilled legal counsel is necessary when dissolving a high net worth marriage. It remains to be seen how the Hamm estate will eventually be divided, but it is poised to be the most expensive divorce in the history of U.S. marriages.  

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