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The Man Who Knew too much… about Shell

Friday, 30 March, 2012 - 15:46

John Donovan reveals compromising information about Anglo-Dutch oil group Shell. This personal revenge has already cost the company billions of dollars.

64-year-old John Donovan is a meticulous and well-informed English pensioner who has Shell executives worried. For several years, he has dedicated most of his time to what he describes as his “super-hobby”: publishing revelations about the company’s misdeeds on his website royaldutchshellplc.com.

We are only asking Shell executives to do what they already claim to be doing.

This is the website’s mission in a nutshell: expose Shell’s wrongdoings to force the company to respect its business principles based on integrity, honesty and openness. “They want to appeal to ethical shareholders by pretending to be something they’re not” Donovan says.

Thanks to a network of informants within the oil group, the website’s owner and main contributor seems all-knowing. Between the English retiree and the corporation, it is a personal story first and foremost.

A well-documented feud

Names, dates, details: John Donovan remembers everything. Reached on the phone on Wednesday, he told his story methodically, as if by force of habit. Once upon a time, there was John and his father Alfred. In the 1980s, they designed promotional offers for Shell customers.

The scratch cards and lottery tickets were a hit and helped boost sales.

My father and I had a marvelous trusting relationship with Shell, the executives were very pleased with us,

recalls Donovan, “but things changed when they hired someone new for their marketing department”. This newcomer used several of the Donovans’ ideas without paying them.

Over the four trials which followed, the relationship between Shell and the Donovans deteriorated dramatically. In 2004, when the latter found out that the oil group was about to change its official name, they beat them to the dotcom domain name and purchased the rights to Royaldutchshellplc.com.

A site which claims its integrity

John Donovan maintains that he systematically checks the information that insiders send him by circulating it to several other sources within Shell before publishing it. Contacted on Wednesday, Shell declined to comment on this embarrassing website.

It is not uncommon for John Donovan to find job applications, business proposals and even terrorist threats addressed to the oil group in his mailbox.

It should be clear that the website is anti-Shell, but there is still some confusion.

Good Memories

John Donovan still remembers his most impressive blow. On November 25th 2005, he informed the Russian government that the safety standards on the Sakhalin-2 project were dangerously lax. As a consequence, Shell, who was the main shareholder on the venture, saw its stake reduced from 55% to 27.5%. “We can safely say that Shell’s loss of its controlling stake cost it untold tens of billions of dollars” Donovan told Myeurop with a hint of pride.

The voluble pensioner did not stop at this impressive stunt. The financing of armed groups in Nigeria, the oil reserves scandals, cases of age discrimination in some refineries: John Donovan continues to uncover the skeletons in the corporation’s closet, and he has no intention of giving it up.

I work on the website seven days a week, for several hours every day, and if I am to live as long as my father, who will turn 95 years old in a few days, I still have plenty of time to dedicate to my little hobby.




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