Continental CEO Ex-Wife Cashes $1 Billion Check, Lawyer Says

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Oklahoma fracking billionaire Harold Hamm’s ex-wife cashed a check he sent her to cover the almost $1 billion awarded as alimony in their divorce, his lawyer said.

State Court Judge Howard Haralson in Oklahoma City ordered Hamm, CEO of Continental Resources Inc., on Nov. 10 to pay $972 million of his then-estimated $16.1 billion oil industry fortune to Sue Ann Arnall, his wife of 26 years. Arnall had appealed the award as too small. Hamm also appealed.

Arnall’s cashing of the check, which includes interest since the ruling, doesn’t necessarily mean the case is settled, Michael Burrage, Hamm’s lawyer, said today in a phone interview.

“Normally when someone accepts the benefits, the appeal is dismissed,” he said. “If she doesn’t voluntarily dismiss the appeal, we’ll ask the court to.”

Ron Barber, Arnall’s attorney, didn’t immediately respond to phone and e-mail messages seeking comment. Burrage wouldn’t comment on whether Arnall’s accepting the check would end Hamm’s appeal.

Hamm had sought a reduction in Haralson’s award, contending the order giving him Continental stock and her cash and real estate means she’s getting more than the judge intended because of the company’s shrinking market value.

Declining oil prices and Continental’s falling share price have eroded Hamm’s fortune since the divorce trial ended Nov. 10, as oil hit a five-year low and company shares have dropped 35 percent. As measured by the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, Hamm’s net worth has been reduced nearly 40 percent to $9.9 billion. Continental rose 5.6 percent to $35.47 today in New York trading.

Revision Rejected

At a Jan. 6 hearing, Haralson rejected Hamm’s and Arnall’s requests to revise the alimony order, telling the couple, “It is what it is.” Haralson said he had taken falling oil prices into account when determining the award.

Arnall had rejected the payment earlier in the week. Hamm sent her a check Jan. 5 for $974.8 million, including the full judgment plus interest, subject to his reservation of the right to appeal it, according to a court filing. Arnall turned down the offer at the time because she didn’t want to risk the dismissal of her own appeal, Burrage said.

Burrage said he received a call from the bank today that Arnall had presented the check for cashing. “I told them to cash it,” he said. “I wish there was more fanfare to it.”

The judge based Arnall’s portion primarily on Continental’s stock price, which he pegged at $116.12 a share to account for a two-to-one stock split that occurred during the divorce trial. Hamm got to keep all the couple’s Continental shares, as the judge ruled that he founded the company before the two married in 1988.

Haralson awarded Arnall the couple’s $4.7 million home in Nichols Hills, Oklahoma, and their $15 million ranch in California’s Carmel Valley.

The case is Hamm v. Hamm, FD-2012-2048, District Court of Oklahoma County, Oklahoma (Oklahoma City).

(Updates with judge’s ruling in eighth paragraph.)
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