(Bloomberg) -- Continental Resources Inc. plunged as much as 44% after founder and majority owner Harold Hamm distributed shares to family members, slashing his stake in the shale driller by more than two-thirds.
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Hamm, the Oklahoma wildcatter who helped usher in the shale-oil breakthroughs that made him a billionaire, held more than 81% of Continental’s outstanding shares prior to Wednesday’s filing that disclosed his stake has shrunk to about 24%.
The distribution was done for estate-planning purposes, according to the filing. As a result, five Hamm children each now have in their names about $2.3 billion in Continental stock.
The documents also 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 the 76-year-old Hamm dies.
Continental shares fell as low as $31.21 in the minutes after the disclosure was filed with regulators and hovered in the low- and mid-$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.
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 wanes.
“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.”
(Updates with dividend increase in fifth paragraph.)
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