The end of a marriage can destabilize a spouse's business, a legitimate concern shared by investors. A significant asset, like a family business, can be subject to Texas community property laws during divorce unless Houston couples agree in advance to terms of property division.
The chief executive officer of oil giant Continental Resources owns 68 percent of the company he started, making him a billionaire many times over. Harold Hamm married in 1988 without the benefit of a prenuptial agreement. His wife, Sue Ann Hamm, worked for a time at the company her husband founded.
The couple sought to divorce after 26 years. Disputes over a property settlement led to a divorce trial lasting more than two months. Sue Ann Hamm sought an equitable distribution of her husband's oil company shares, striking fear in the hearts of the remaining Continental shareholders.
A court recently determined the CEO owed his former wife $995.5 million. A lien was placed on Harold Hamm's Continental stock to guarantee he lived up to the judge's order. Hamm, age 68, has until the end of the year to fork over more than $322 million to his ex, after which he must pay about $7 million each month until the debt is satisfied.
Sue Ann Hamm received about $25 million between the time the case was filed and the judgment. The court also awarded the ex-wife more than $22 million in real estate, representing two homes the couple owned.
The verdict was less than Sue Ann Hamm wanted. However, the Hamm's ex-wife will be among one of the nation's richest women, even if she doesn't appeal the ruling. Under the judge's terms, Harold Hamm and Continental investors do not have to worry about the status of the majority owner's shares.
Attorneys know complicated divorces can be the result of high net worth marriages unless spouses take early action to preserve separate assets.
Source: MSN, "Continental CEO Harold Hamm ordered to pay $995 million in divorce" Joshua Schneyer, Reuters, Nov. 11, 2014