Divorce is often complicated by the presence of significant assets, a fact that no one is more presently aware of than billionaire and founder of Continental Resources, Harold Hamm. The 69-year-old businessman, who also happens to be the world's 44th richest person, is at risk of losing his controlling stake in his company with the procession of his pending divorce.
On February 13th, Oklahoma district court judge Howard Haralson ruled that the stock's appreciation over the course of Hamm's 26-year marriage may still be divided as a marital asset. Haralson's ruling, which was made public this month, stated that the "marital portion of the non-passive enhanced value" of Hamm's 125 million shares of Continental stock "is reserved for further determination."
Hamm and his wife, who first filed for divorce in 2012, did not sign a pre- or post-nuptial agreement. Due to the absence of such an agreement and the sizeable assets involved in the case, Hamm's divorce has the potential to play out as one of the largest divorce settlements ever publicly known.
The value of the stock prior to Hamm's marriage has already been categorized as a pre-marital asset, so the court will not require those shares to be divided. However, that leaves billions of dollars worth of appreciated stock value to be determined.
A judge will determine how much of Continental's enhanced value over the years was caused by Harold Hamm directly and how much of company's success can simply be attributed to the market. It is likely that any gains credited to market conditions will not be included among divisible marital assets.
In a March 4 interview with Forbes.com, Hamm assured shareholders that "there is not going to be a disturbance in the management of the company going forward." However, a transfer or loss of $4 billion worth of stock would result in Hamm losing his controlling stake in Continental Resources. A trial is scheduled for July 14th.