The wife of Oklahoma energy tycoon Harold Hamm, a pioneer in fracking to extract oil and gas from shale, is said to be considering an appeal of a nearly $1bn divorce settlement for it being insufficiently generous.
Sue Ann Hamm, who was married for 28 years, stands to join the Forbes list of America’s 100 wealthiest women thanks to the final award of a divorce judge in Oklahoma City where Mr Hamm’s company, Continental Resources, is based.
Mr Hamm must pay her $972m to settle. Of that, $322m must be paid by the end of the year and the rest in $7m monthly increments until the total amount is transferred.
Yet, the final sums were apparently not enough to impress many legal observers of the blockbuster case. Mr Hamm, 68, is said to be worth at least $16.1bn (£10bn). Moreover, he was allowed to keep the bulk of the marital assets as well as nearly all of his 68 per cent stake in Continental, which has become one of the largest energy exploration companies in the land.
“We’re currently evaluating Ms Hamm’s options,” a lawyer for Ms Hamm told reporters after the terms of the agreement were made public this week. “We’ll release a statement in the next few days.”
Standing by the deal, meanwhile, are lawyers for Mr Hamm. “We think this is a fair and equitable outcome of the case,” said Mike Burrage, one of his team at the 10 week-long, closed-door divorce hearing that ended last month.
According to court papers, Mr Hamm was able to retain $1.9bn more of the marital assets than his wife, including a private jet and the couple’s second home in Branson, Missouri.
He was also awarded two favourite race horses, Uno and Star, valued at $400,000, on condition he moved them from a shared California mansion in three days. Ms Hamm kept the mansion, valued at $17.4m.
While no ordinary divorce to be sure, the final settlement, ordered by Special Judge Howard Haralson, fell far short of the $4bn to $8bn some in the legal world had been expecting. When the couple married in 1988 no pre-nuptial agreement was signed. Ms Hamm asked her husband to move out in February 2012 and divorce proceedings began shortly afterwards.
“While a billion dollars is nothing to sneeze at, Harold Hamm and his attorneys left the courtroom very well aware that they had scored a very huge victory,” Seymour Reisman, a divorce lawyer with the New York firm of Reisman, Peirez, Reisman and Capobianco, told Bloomberg News.
The papers showed that at the very end of the trial, Mr Hamm made a special request to be awarded “certain family pictures, a few books, guns, shotguns, some pictures, geode in quartz display and his hand tools”. Ms Hamm agreed he could have all the items with the exception of the quartz display. The couple have two grown daughters.
The son of sharecroppers in Oklahoma, Mr Hamm began his career with the purchase of a tanker lorry for work between Oklahoma’s oil fields. He later founded his own oil services company that would eventually become Continental, which in recent years became the dominant player exploiting the giant Bakken shale formation beneath North Dakota. The company has claimed credit for developing the sideways and liquid injection drilling that is at the heart of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.
If Mr Hamm has come out of the deal relatively intact, so apparently has his company which has seen little movement in its share value this week. “As Continental has stated on numerous previous occasions, this private matter has not, and will not have any impact or effect on the company’s business or operations,” the company said.