TODAY   |  June 15, 2013

Oil tycoon’s divorce may cost billions

Harold Hamm may not be a household name, but the oil baron’s contentious split from his wife could put the couple at the top of the list for the most expensive divorce settlement ever. NBC’s Michelle Franzen reports.

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>> this half hour with a divorce settlement that could go down in the record books. michelle franzen is here with more on that. a lot of divorce. a lot of big numbers this week.

>> erica, when oil baron harold hamm was named by "forbes" as one of the 50 richest americans last year now his divorce settlement may focus on what he doesn't have. that is a prenuptial agreement . with billions of dollars at stake this could be the biggest divorce settlement in history. harold hamm may not be a household name, but the oil baron's contentious split from wife sue ann could put them at the top of the list for the most expensive divorce settlements. that's because the couple married for 25 years reportedly did not have a prenuptial agreement .

>> this is the king of divorce cases. sue ann stands to make lots and lots of money.

>> reporter: experts say his soon-to-be ex could receive $3 billion or more.

>> that will make her one of the 20 richest women in america. it would make her richer than oprah if she wins what she is expected to.

>> reporter: hamm is the chairman and ceo of continental resources, a successful oil and natural gas company. according to "forbes" he is ranked the 90th richest billionaire in the world.

>> he has accrued billions of dollars by virtue of his huge land position in the oil field of north dakota . it's the biggest new oil play in america. and he's now worth over $11 billion.

>>> until march the hamms who filed in oklahoma kept their divorce out of the public spotlight. the multi billion dollar court battle would soar past the top three most expensive divorce settlements of all time. newscorp chairman rupert murdoch filed for divorce from his third wife wendy this week but a split from his second wife anna still holds the record. he reportedly paid her a $1.7 billion settlement back in 1999 .

>>> compare that to the pricey, high profile celebrity divorce settlements, all in the millions. tiger woods reportedly paid his ex-wife $110 million. arnold schwarzenegger and maria shriver a reported settlement between $250 and $375 million. mel gibson and his wife robin? $425 million. peanuts, experts say, compared to the barrels of money hamm may have to shell out.

>> while he struck oil, his wife may have struck gold.

>> nbc news contacted attorneys for both sides but neither is commenting. a judge will help determine now how the couple's assets should be split.