Billionaire oil baron Harold Hamm's pending divorce from his wife, Sue Ann, is expected to go down as the costliest divorce settlement of all time.
Hamm, the CEO of Continental Resources, is worth more than $11 billion, and he may have kiss half of that fortune goodbye, according to Reuters.
The reason: Sue Ann held high-rankings positions at his company and helped Hamm build it into the multi-billion-dollar business it became.
"[Sue Ann] not only contributed to the marriage but she also contributed directly to the business," Jeffrey Cohen, a New York divorce attorney who has handled cases for high-profile clients like Mark Anthony and Lou Reed, told Business Insider.
"Instead of having an A for being a good wife, she gets an A for being a good wife and an A for being (in) a business partnership."
Even for couples that don't live in a community property state like California –– where married couples' finances are typically split 50/50 –– joint business ventures still play a major role when courts decide how to divvy up the finances.
"Being directly involved in the growth of any marital business venture is going to be the belt and suspenders [of your case]," Cohen said. "It's going to be an additional way to fortify your contribution and entitlement."
Harold founded Continental in 1967. He and Sue Ann were married in 1988 and she worked for Continental, including forming the company's oil and gas marketing groups.
Some of the oil company's most explosive growth occurred while the two were wed. Hamm discovered new oil fields in North Dakota in the 1990s that led to huge growth for Continental. Since going public in 2007, the share price has ballooned by 500 percent, according to Reuters.
Cohen said that growth would be seen as "shared growth" in divorce court. And while he doesn't expect Sue Ann to receive quite half of her husband's hefty 68 percent stake in the company, he expects she'll walk away with a significant chunk of cash.
"This is a heck of a case," he said. "I don’t see her getting quite 50 percent, but more than she could ever use in her life."
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