The Oil Tycoon Who Just Paid Out A $1 Billion Divorce Settlement Has An Amazing Rags To Riches Story

It could’ve been the most expensive divorce in history, but oil tycoon Harold Hamm will pay his ex-wife Sue Ann only less than $US1 billion after 26 years of marriage.

Bloomberg ranks Hamm as the 50th richest person in the world, worth $US16 billion. He and his wife did not sign a prenuptial agreement when they married.

The case was strange, not just for its size, but also for how it proceeded. The general counsel of Hamm’s company, Eric Eissenstat, had a huge role in the courtroom even though he didn’t represent either party. The judge was so friendly with Eissenstat he would toss him candy during the proceedings.

Hamm’s 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. Hamm owns 68% of the company and has an amazing rags to riches story.

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.

This is an update of a post originally written by Rob Wile.

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 Center.

Source: Continental

The company pioneered both horizontal drilling...

slant and 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 50th-richest person in the world, with a net of worth $16 billion according to Bloomberg.

Source: Forbes

Harold said he and his ex have 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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