By Alfred and John Donovan
The Minutes of the Royal Dutch Shell Committee of Managing Directors (CMD) meeting in September 2001 reveal that the Group Managing Directors of Shell, including the current Chief Executive, Jeroen van der Veer, “expressed considerable concern over a number of aspects” relating to the prospect of the Russian energy giant Gazprom becoming involved in a Sakhalin consortium project.
The Group Managing Directors present included Philip Watts, Jeroen van der Veer, Harry Roels, Paul Skinner and Walter van de Vijver. Other Shell Executives in attendance for the discussion were Din Megat, Tim Warren, Peter de Wit and Dominique Gardy.
Tim Warren, now the Country Chairman of Shell Australia, made a presentation to the assembled Committee for a Shell led consortium for a pipeline from Sakhalin to China, known as the China East-West Pipeline. Gazprom was to be offered a stingy 1% share.
According to the minutes, the Committee “expressed considerable concern over a number of aspects to the proposal including… the ability of Gazprom to deliver on its promises.” It also “emphasised the need to obtain real value from Gazprom for any financing support.” (It is interesting to note that being the most important entity in the entire Universe with the possible exception of Almighty God, the word “Committee” always had a Capital “C” in the minutes.)
Times have changed since then. Shell is no longer able to lay down terms to Gazprom. It is now the other way round. Shell is now a junior partner in the Sakhalin-2 mega project after the involvement of the so called “anti-Shell” website www.royaldutchshellplc.com in supplying the Russian government with incriminating secret Shell internal documents which forced Shell to surrender its ownership role.
The embarrassing revelation about Jeroen van der Veers misgivings in relation to Gazprom come at a most unfortunate time, bearing in mind Shell’s ambitions for a vitally important new partnership with Gazprom announced just days ago.
The same site publishes confidential Shell documents every day, including the one which is the subject of this article: COMMITTEE OF MANAGING DIRECTORS MINUTES OF THE MEETING HELD IN THE HAGUE ON TUESDAY, 11 SEPTEMBER 2001. Every page of the minutes is marked “MOST CONFIDENTIAL”
This is because they contain top secret information about Shell’s activities and plans, including in this document, the subject of “Mega mergers”.
The September 2001 minutes also discuss the repercussions of Shell’s failed attempt to takeover Woodside Petroleum in Australia, an ambition it still retains. The minutes record the prospect of “enhancing Shell’s current position with a view to gaining control of Woodside at an appropriate time thereafter…”
A presentation by Tim Warren revealed “In relation to a question on Group reputation, the presenter replied that Shell’s reputation is not very high. Some 10 years ago it would have achieved a 20% positive rating; today its reputation probably receives a 10% rating. The decline in reputation is probably attributable to high pump prices (particularly in the face of globalisation) and Woodside.”
The minutes which contain other information which remains commercially sensitive, even six years later, can be viewed in their entirety on the link below: –
The Minutes of the Royal Dutch Shell Committee of Managing Directors (CMD) meeting in September 2001: Every page classified as “MOST CONFIDENTIAL”
The minutes for a more recent equally important Royal Dutch Shell CMD Meeting will be published on Monday 12 November 2007.