25 September 2006
Dear Mr Van der Veer
I received an email from a Shell insider this morning containing a timely proposal which, although partly tongue-in-cheek, I believe actually has considerable merit in regard to resolving the Sakhalin II impasse. As you will see, it also has other advantages. I therefore thought it appropriate to bring this brainwave to your attention immediately.
Here it is without further fanfare.
Email received from a Shell Insider
Subject: Gazprom takeover? Why the hell not?
It occurs to me that a lot could be achieved by a merger of Shell and Gazprom.
In assessing the viability of a takeover, a number of factors need to be considered:
(1) Relative size: Gazprom is bigger than Shell in terms of market capitalisation, but of a similar size
(2) Synergy: very little overlap in terms of portfolios, both upstream and downstream
(3) Technology: Shell claims to have technology which might be useful to Gazprom
(4) Sakhalin issues resolved at a stroke
(5) Gazprom gets access to the European gas distribution network
(6) Compatible corporate cultures
(7) Similar approach to resolution of legal obstacles
(8) Shell’s reserves problems solved forever (whether or not it ever finds anything again)
(9) Putin’s career progression problem solved
(10) Shell’s and Gazprom’s respective extra-judicial arms could be combined to great effect
(11) Ollila won’t have to leave Helsinki after all
(12) Shell will never have to worry about John Browne again
(13) Corporate taxes would become completely voluntary
I’m sure you can fill in points 14-100!!
Email extracts end.
Other than to stress that Gazprom would immediately enjoy the benefits of a world-wide retail operation, I will leave it to you to fill in more points, as you obviously know far more about these matters.
Suffice it to say that I was sufficiently impressed to snap up the domain names shellgazprom.com and gazpromshell.com to add to my considerable collection, which of course includes the domain name on which Shell had set its sights: royaldutchshellplc.com (better luck next time).
If you do decide to respond to this email, can you please clear up the question of the project costs for Sakhalin II? The last official word from Shell cited a figure of $20 billion. We subsequently heard that Shell lawyers had threatened legal action against the FT if they published a figure of $26 billion based on alleged insider information. We were given this same figure by our own insider sources and have quoted it many times in various articles. Yesterday “The Observer” newspaper mentioned a figure of $25 billion. What is the true current projected cost, as we would like to quote the correct figure in our website articles (my son and I are sticklers for accuracy)?
As a matter of interest, our main website – royaldutchshellplc.com – contains over 10,000 articles relating to Shell and regularly receives over 1.25 million hits per month. It even has its own page on Wikipedia:
Speaking of Wikipedia, we regularly contribute to the Wikipedia article focused on Shell (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_Dutch_Shell) and have personally added many entire sections including, on the positive side, “The Shell Foundation”, “The Shell LiveWIRE programme” and “The Shell whistleblower helpline”. This demonstrates how keen we are to provide a fair and balanced view of Shell. Incidentally, if you check out the article, you will see that we are one of two websites recommended by Fortune Magazine for information about Shell. The other, rather less exotic site is shell.com. I can fairly describe our website as being exotic bearing in mind the defamation, injunction and contempt of court proceedings by eight Royal Dutch Shell Group companies relating to publications on our site under the name of Dr John Huong, the renowned Shell whistleblower. As you may be aware, a related High Court action involving Shell and Dr Huong commenced this morning and will continue throughout this week.
Your attention may have been drawn from time to time to satirical, sometimes animated, cartoon style features on our website, in which you often make a personal appearance, if I can delicately put it that way. Shell International General Counsel, Mr Richard Wiseman, did in November raise the subject of one such feature involving your current adversary, President Putin, in an email he sent to me. We had no way of knowing if Mr Wiseman was representing your own feelings, or was being vindictive because in the domain name battle, his 650 strong legal department had been bested by an 88 year old war pensioner with no legal representation (me). Mr Wiseman revealed (to my son John at a Shell AGM) that he had advised the legal team representing Shell in the domain name litigation, so he must have been annoyed. This probably explains the threats and recriminations in his email.
I want to make it plain that we realise there is a fine line between harmless amusement and something which could be construed as being personally offensive. Consequently, if you ever consider that we have strayed over the line in any such feature involving your personage, please let me know direct by email and it will be immediately deleted without argument or rancour. The offer is genuine and unconditional. I suspect that we might get on better with Shell management if your lawyers are kept out of the loop.
Finally, there is no need to be coy about your knowledge of our website. Mr Wiseman accidentally sent me a copy of an email about our activities which he had meant to send only to you and Malcolm Brinded. Such things happen in the electronic age and we would never dream of exploiting a silly mistake – something we have all done. Nonetheless, it was still an interesting read and revealing to know just how seriously we are taken at such a high level.