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A divorce bigger than anything the Ewings could ever dream up

If you thought Big Oil was a thing of the past, you were wrong. The oil barons of the prime-time soap operas of the 1970s were nothing like today's oil industry heavy hitters -- for the most part. For one thing, both husband and wife in a recent divorce case are heavy hitters at the company that made them billionaires.

The husband is the head and largest stockholder of the company that controls much of the immensely productive oil fields in the Upper Midwest. The wife is a longtime executive with the same company. More importantly, the company's and the couple's net worth increased dramatically during the course of their marriage. According to Forbes, the husband is the 35th richest person in the U.S. with his holdings worth more than $11 billion.

Although court filings are sealed in the couple's home state, Reuters has learned that the wife filed for divorce when she discovered her husband was having an affair. They have been married for 25 years and have two grown children. He has children from an earlier marriage as well.

Details of the couple's split are sketchy at best, and there is no indication one way or the other that the couple had a prenuptial agreement. What is known is that the couple's home state is not a community property state, so, in the absence of a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement, marital property would be divided on an equitable basis.

What has the markets on edge is that the equitable property division could result in a portion of the husband's company stock transferring to his wife. If control of the company were to change hands, the oil boom could take a hit.

It is a rare occasion when economists and market analysts are closely monitoring a family court matter. But a divorce settlement in this case could break records and be a game-changer in many ways.

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

We help clients who are considering divorce, even if they aren't worth billions of dollars, like the couple in this post. If you're interested in learning more about our Lake County, Illinois, family law practice, please visit our website.

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