When billionaires divorce, the stakes -- and the checks -- are big.
Sue Ann Arnall, the ex-wife of Oklahoma oil tycoon Harold Hamm, has deposited a hand-written check for almost $1 billion, which could end the headline-making divorce case.
Arnall deposited the check, which is made out in the amount of $974,790,317.77, after she initially declining the payment and vowing to pursue an appeal of the divorce settlement. She had argued that the amount shortchanged her, given that her former husband's stake in the oil company Continental Resources (CLR) had grown to more than $18 billion at one point.
Her about-face comes amid the slumping price of oil and a 34 percent decline in Continental Resources' shares over the past year. Hamm's divorce attorney told Reuters he believes the deposit will end her appeal.
Whatever path she decides to take next, the payout means Arnall now won't be able to appeal the part of the judgment that awarded her the $975 million, said Michael Stutman, president of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, NY Chapter, and head of family law at Mishcon de Reya New York.
The check represented "a bird in the hand," which may have swayed her decision to deposit the funds, Stutman told CBS MoneyWatch. "In a long-term marriage such as this one, to say nothing of the fact that she worked at the company, he got the deal of the century. No one is weeping for Mr. Hamm."
Arnall's attorney had argued that the settlement, which represents about 10 percent of Hamm's wealth, wasn't equitable. The couple was married for 26 years, and Arnall, an attorney, worked as an executive at Continental for many years.
The judge in the case, Howard Haralson, said earlier this month that he wouldn't change the award to Arnall, even though both sides had requested it, Bloomberg News reported earlier this week. Hamm had asked the court for a break, given the plunge in oil prices. Arnall, of course, had been arguing for a larger settlement.
Hamm's legal team had argued that Continental's rising value during the course of their marriage was due to external factors, such as the rise in oil prices, rather than Hamm's own management decisions.
The judge "found the marital property was somewhere near $2.2 billion, and she got half of that," Stutman noted. "That's a lot of money to fund not only your future but future generations, but that doesn't give him the right to have 10 times as much."