Eukaryotes remodel the nucleus during mitosis using a variety of mechanisms that differ in the timing and the extent of nuclear envelope (NE) breakdown. Here, we probe the principles enabling this functional diversity by exploiting the natural divergence in NE management strategies between the related fission yeasts Schizosaccharomyces pombe and Schizosaccharomyces japonicus [1-3]. We show that inactivation of Ned1, the phosphatidic acid phosphatase of the lipin family, by CDK phosphorylation is both necessary and sufficient to promote NE expansion required for "closed" mitosis in S. pombe. In contrast, Ned1 is not regulated during division in S. japonicus, thus limiting membrane availability and necessitating NE breakage. Interspecies gene swaps result in phenotypically normal divisions with the S. japonicus lipin acquiring an S. pombe-like mitotic phosphorylation pattern. Our results provide experimental evidence for the mitotic regulation of phosphatidic acid flux and suggest that the regulatory networks governing lipin activity diverged in evolution to give rise to strikingly dissimilar mitotic programs.