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Will prenup prevent oil divorce from setting records?

Though he's one of America's richest and most influential businessmen, Continental Resources chief executive Harold Hamm isn't quite a household name.

That might change if a prenuptial agreement doesn't prevent his divorce settlement from becoming the biggest in U.S. history.

Back in 2010, Sue Ann Hamm, a former Continental executive, sued for divorce in a family court far from New Jersey after she said she caught her husband of more than two decades cheating.

Now it appears likely that an Oklahoma court will have to decide how big of a slice Sue Ann is entitled to of her estranged husband's $11.2 billion stake in Continental. After a 25-year marriage, raising two children with her husband and helping to manage the highly profitable Continental, she might well be looking for a big chunk of that huge financial pie.

Some observers say if there is no prenuptial agreement (and it isn't clear yet that there is one), she will likely top the $1.7 billion Rupert Murdoch's former wife, Anna, got in a 1999 divorce. That settlement is considered the largest to date.

Sue Ann Hamm is an economic and attorney who held key positions in the company that helped discover and develop North Dakota's booming Bakken oil field. The company uses the controversial oil extraction method known as "fracking."

One family law expert speculated for Reuters that Sue Ann Hamm "...has got to be looking for a couple of billion dollars."

When Murdoch divorced, shares of his News Corp. dropped in value. Some oil industry observers wonder if the same fate is in store for Continental.

The company issued a statement declaring that it doesn't anticipate its business will change with the impending divorce.

While few people have the financial resources of this couple, everyone who faces divorce worries about both the financial and emotional impact of the split. An experienced attorney can help clients pursue favorable settlements while protecting their rights and interests.

Source: Reuters, "Exclusive: Looming divorce could threaten oil baron's empire," Brian Grow and Joshua Schneyer, March 21, 2013

  • Our New Jersey law firm helps clients in Trenton in divorce and other family law matters.

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