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Shale Billionaire Hamm Keeps Full Control With ‘Estate Planning’


(Bloomberg) — Harold Hamm said he’s retaining full control of shale driller Continental Resources Inc. after a company filing late Wednesday signaled the founder had slashed his stake and distributed shares to family members.

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“Full control stays with me, so this changes nothing in that regard,” 76-year-old Hamm said by phone Wednesday evening after the filing indicated he’d cut his personal stake by more than two-thirds. “What was done is just for estate planning. This started back in 2015.”

Continental shares fell as low as $31.21 in the minutes after the disclosure was filed with regulators, and hovered in the mid- to low-$30s for more than half an hour before erasing those losses. In a separate announcement, the oil explorer announced a 15% increase in quarterly dividends.

The Oklahoma wildcatter who helped usher in the shale-oil breakthroughs that made him a billionaire, said he will continue to control more than 81% of the company’s outstanding shares. While five Hamm children each now have in their names about $2.3 billion in Continental stock, Hamm said they’re contractually not allowed to sell until his death.

While the Wednesday filing disclosed Hamm’s stock had shrunk to about 24%, Chief Financial Officer John Hart described it as a “procedural step” that’s been ongoing for years and will continue for some time.

“On securities filings, they’re very regimented in checking the box,” Hart said in the same phone interview. “Within the confines of his agreements, which aren’t all filed there, he personally has retained a voting control of the company, and the family has no intention of selling or giving up that control going forward.”

The documents disclosed that family members had entered into a shareholders agreement that imposed limits on their ability to transact in Continental stock and requires them to vote as a group if Hamm dies.

“He’s an absolute stallion,” Hart said of Hamm. “He’s in here everyday, he works harder than any person I know. Tremendous health.”

Prior to Wednesday’s close of trading, Hamm was worth $16.9 billion and ranked 114th on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, with virtually all of his wealth tied to Continental. His fortune has soared as the increasing price of oil boosted the value of his company.

The outspoken supporter of former President Donald Trump had been steadily amassing Continental stock for years, purchasing almost $190 million worth in 2020 and $45 million in 2021, according to Bloomberg data. The last time he sold any of the stock was 2019.

Hamm has in the past fielded questions on taking his company private, including in December, when he said that reverting to such an ownership structure was appealing should investor interest wane.

“You have to do what the market wants when you’re public,” Hamm said during a Bloomberg TV interview at the time. “These privates, they have more freedom than we do.”

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