Monday, an Oklahoma County judge ruled that Hamm, who is the founder and majority shareholder of Continental, must pay his ex-wife nearly $1 billion to resolve their lengthy divorce case. There was speculation that the divorce could be the largest in U.S. history, but the judge decided on just a fraction of Hamm’s stock’s value qualified as marital property. Hamm’s fortune is estimated at $17.6 billion.
Because the value of Continental appreciated significantly during Hamm’s marriage, the question was raised whether that should be considered a marital asset or separate asset.
“He acquired it in context of the oil company,” Mr. Cordell said, “but also, the law makes a distinction between assets that you held before the marriage, which are separate, and that gain value passively. The bulk of his investments were made separately through his assets, meaning his shares in this company that he owned, which is Continental Resources.
“If it’s something that you earn, by the sweat of your brow like salary and other things, well those things clearly are marital assets. The question became what is the nature of this incredible appreciation of value that occurred from this North Dakota oil field investment.”
The ruling has also sparked a conversation about the merits of signing prenuptial agreements when one owns a lot of valuable assets.
“I can tell you as a divorce lawyer that around the country our attorneys are seeing more people who have an interest in prenuptial agreements,” Mr. Cordell said.
Listen to the full audio from Mr. Cordell’s interview below: