High Asset Divorce: Holding on to the Family Business

When high net worth couples divorce, the stakes are high. A recent ruling in Oklahoma allowed the 76th richest person in the world to hold on to a majority stake in his business. 

Harold Hamm may not be a household name, but his company, Continental Resources produces ten percent of the U.S. oil output. Worth more than $11 billion, Mr. Hamm has two adult daughters with Sue Ann Hamm, his wife since 1988. 

For the better part of the last decade, the couple has flirted with divorce. Events leading to the current legal case include: 

  • As far back as 1998, the couple discussed or sought divorce. In 2003, Ms. Hamm relocated from Enid, Oklahoma with their two daughters. Thereafter, Ms. Hamm installed surveillance equipment in the Enid home to support her allegations of infidelity on the part of Mr. Hamm.
  • A self-made man, Mr. Hamm saw the value of Continental Resources dramatically increase during the span of his marriage to Ms. Hamm.
  • The couple does not have a prenuptial agreement. 

Recently, Mr. Hamm sought a ruling from an Oklahoma court that 122 million shares of Continental Resources owned by him prior to marriage were not subject to the state rule of equitable distribution. Like Oklahoma, New York enforces equitable—not equal—division of assets upon divorce. 

The court ruled the shares were separate property owned by Mr. Hamm and not subject to division upon divorce. Additional shares acquired by Mr. Hamm following marriage are likely to be included within the marital estate. A potentially record-breaking divorce settlement in the case is expected by year end. 

Protecting the bottom line is critical for all individuals going through divorce in New York. When you need skilled advice and strong representation with complex property issues, talk to our law firm, Bryan L. Salamone and Associates, P.C. 

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