The Oil Tycoon Facing The Most Expensive Divorce Ever Has An Amazing Rags To Riches Story

ContinentalReuters’ Brian Grow and Joshua Schneyer broke the news yesterday that oil tycoon Harold Hamm is facing a catastrophic divorce settlement after his wife accused him of infidelity.

It could be the most expensive divorce in history.

Forbes ranks Hamm as the 35th-richest person in the country, with a net worth of $11.3 billion. His company, Continental Resources, owns 1 million acres in North Dakota’s Bakken oil field, the shale play that has helped U.S. oil production rise to levels unseen in decades.

Continental says it does not anticipate any settlement would have a material impact on the company. 

But Grow and Schneyer write that a judge could force Hamm to divide his 68 per cent controlling stake in the company. They also talked to legal experts who said the final figure could rival Rupert Murdoch’s unprecedented $1.7 billion settlement with his estranged wife.

Whatever the outcome, the story is a tragic chapter for a man who ranked 5th on our “Horatio Alger Index” of most impressive American rags-to-riches stories.

We wanted to portray the full life-story of a man who went from pumping gas at a corner store to becoming one of the most influential people in the energy industry.

Harold Hamm was born in 1945, the 13th child of Oklahoma sharecroppers.

Source: Reuters

He left home at age 17 to take a job fixing flats and pumping gas in the town of Enid, Okla.

Source: Enid News

He later signed up for a DECA entrepreneurship program, which allowed him to finish high school and work full time.

Source: Enid News

In the meantime, he also got married — for the first time.

He and his wife Judith Ann had three children.

Source: BloombergBusinessweek

At age 22, he founded his own company, Shelly Dean Oil Co., the predecessor to Continental.

He named it after his two eldest daughters. Seven years later, the company was operating multiple producing wells across Oklahoma. He also operated a trucking subsidiary called Hamm and Phillips.

Source: Continental, SEC

Two decades later, the company was big enough that it could start throwing its weight around.

In 1985, Hamm acquired Petro-Lewis and 500+ oil and gas wells. It remains the company's largest acquisition to date.

Source: Continental

In 1987, he divorced his first wife, Judith Ann. A year later, he married 31-year-old Sue Ann.

Hamm was 43. They would have two daughters.

Source: Reuters

An economist and lawyer, Sue Ann has held key posts at Continental, including manager of crude oil marketing.

She's also testified to Congress on behalf of the company. According to her lawyer, she is no longer with the company.

Source: Reuters, NewsOK.com

This is around the time when the company really took off. Hamm renamed it Continental Resources in 1990.

In 1992 Continental purchased a monument to its success -- the company's former headquarters in downtown Enid, OK -- now called Continental centre.

Source: Continental

The company pioneered both horizontal drilling...

Source: Continental

And — in 2003 — it entered North Dakota's Bakken shale play, now one of the country's most productive oil fields.

Source: Continental

The company finally went public in 2007. It's done pretty well.

Up nearly 500 per cent since its IPO.

Source: Continental

Still, it's remained relatively small. As of 2010 they had just 500 employees.

Source: Continental

In 2011, Hamm signed on to be Mitt Romney's campaign adviser on energy.

Source: Bloomberg

Today, Hamm is the 35th-richest person in the country, with a net of worth $11.3 billion according to Forbes.

Source: Forbes

Which is why any divorce settlement would be so titanic — Harold owns 68% of his company.

It's not clear whether there is a prenuptial agreement, Reuters says. Both Harold and Sue Ann have each previously filed for divorce, although both motions were later dropped.

Source: Reuters

Harold says they've actually been estranged since 2005.

Sue Ann denies this, but charges Harold with 'having an affair' that she discovered in 2010, prompting her to later file for divorce.

Source: Reuters

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