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Oil baron's divorce settlement could set new records

For many people in Tennessee and elsewhere who get divorced, the stakes are high. From child custody to property division, people who cannot amicably agree on a divorce settlement realize that is satisfactory could find themselves battling in court to determine who gets what.

And while these disputes may be of the utmost importance to the people involved, they might look like pocket change compared to one divorce case that could end up with a settlement in the billions of dollars.

The case involves the second marriage of Harold Hamm, the chief executive of Continental Resources. Some people might not be familiar with Hamm or his company, but he has been ranked as one of the most influential people in the world by one magazine and the 35th-richest American by another. The company, which Hamm founded in 1968, controls millions of acres of oil fields; Hamm's share of the company, through his personal holdings and trusts, are worth more than $11 billion.

Hamm's wife filed for divorce last May. She alleges in her filing, documents from which were just made public, that her husband was unfaithful to her. It isn't clear if they agreed to a prenuptial agreement when they were married in 1988. If not, some speculate that the shares controlled by Hamm might be considered marital property -- in which case his estranged wife could receive a large part of the company herself, potentially worth billions of dollars. It could top the current record, currently held by media mogul Rupert Murdoch, who paid $1.7 billion to settle his 1999 divorce.

Source: Reuters, "Exclusive: Looming divorce could threaten oil baron's empire," Brian Grow and Joshua Schneyer, March 21, 2013