BREAKINGVIEWS-Murdoch may get three divorces for price of one

Fri Jun 14, 2013 3:50pm IST

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(The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own)

By Christopher Swann

NEW YORK, June 14 (Reuters Breakingviews) - Rupert Murdoch may get three divorces for price of one. As the News Corp (NWSA.O) boss heads for a third breakup, there’s at least one financial consolation: a smaller lifetime divorce bill than fellow billionaire Harold Hamm. Minus a prenuptial agreement, the oil baron may forfeit $3 billion to his ex. Even after a $1.7 billion deal in 1999, media mogul Murdoch probably comes out ahead.

The two tycoons are neighbors on the Forbes rich list. With a net worth of $11.3 billion, Hamm ranks as the 90th wealthiest man in the world just ahead of Murdoch's 91st place listing for the $11.2 billion he had as of March this year. But despite almost identical fortunes, they face very different price tags for their latest marital splits.

Up to now, Murdoch holds the unenviable record for the largest sum ever handed over in a public divorce settlement for his 1999 deal. Murdoch's overall bill for failed relationships will certainly grow considerably with his forthcoming rupture from Wendi. Yet his third wife did sign a prenuptial agreement, a person familiar with the situation told Reuters. That should minimize the cost. His first divorce, in 1967, came before he had accumulated his substantial fortune.

Harold Hamm looks to be facing a bill that will exceed all three of Murdoch's romantic misadventures combined. For a start, Hamm failed to take the precaution of a pre-nuptial bargain when he married Sue Ann in 1988. To make matters worse, almost all of his fortune has been accumulated since they tied the knot. In 1987, at the time of his first divorce, Hamm had a net worth of just $16 million. Sue Ann, herself a lawyer, also gains extra leverage by having worked as a top executive at her husband's oil firm. That enables her to claim she played an important role in building Hamm's empire.

Both billionaires are sure to occupy a lower ranking on the Forbes list by the end of the year. But of the two, Hamm is in danger of sliding far further for solely domestic reasons.

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CONTEXT NEWS

- News Corp Chief Executive Rupert Murdoch filed for divorce from his wife Wendi on June 13.

- The media executive was last divorced in 1999, when he settled with his ex-wife Anna for a record $1.7 billion.

- Reuters: New Corp's Rupert Murdoch files for divorce from wife Wendi [ID:nL2N0EP146]

RELATED COLUMN

Not since Dallas [ID:nL1N0CE5EF] - For previous columns by the author, Reuters customers can click on [SWANN/]

(Editing by Rob Cox and David Evans)

((christopher.swann@thomsonreuters.com))

((Reuters messaging: christopher.swann.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net)) Keywords: BREAKINGVIEWS MURDOCH/

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