World’s Most Expensive Divorce Pending

In one of the most expensive property division cases ever recorded, one billionaire’s soon-to-be ex-wife is slated to receive about $5 billion in their divorce settlement. The information was revealed recently by Reuters reporters conducting an in-depth look into the breakup between oil mogul Harold Hamm and his second wife; unlucky for him, she is both an attorney and an economist.

The woman, Sue Ann Hamm, is Harold’s second wife. Since she filed for divorce last year, the woman has been alleging that Harold cheated on her. In the absence of a prenuptial agreement — or if the agreement is voided because of infidelity — Sue Ann stands to nab a majority share in Continental oil, the company Harold founded in 1967. In other words, the self-made billionaire could lose about 68 percent of the company to his ex. With the woman’s projected shares in the company adding up to more than $5.3 billion, the divorce settlement would easily be the most expensive on record, even among the super wealthy.

It is still not entirely clear whether the woman will actually end up with an even half of the man’s financial holdings; after all the pair has two children, a factor that could substantially increase the price of the divorce if Sue Ann gets primary custody and child support. The courts will also factor in the 25-year span of the marriage, along with Sue Ann’s time spent as an executive at Continental, where she was responsible for marketing units and other key activities.

The record-breaking potential settlement dwarfs even Rupert Murdoch’s recent divorce, which cost him about $1.7 billion in 1999. Financial magazines have had difficulty proving that Murdoch in fact paid that much, though, considering the quality of his legal representation.

Property division is largely dependent on the presence of a prenuptial agreement. High-asset couples who are pursuing divorce should first consult their prenuptial requirements before seeking other legal alternatives.

Source: Forbes, “Oil billionaire Harold Hamm’s divorce could be world’s most expensive at over $5 billion,” Clare O’Connor, March 23, 2013