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The man who shook Shell

By Clémence Grison (paris): 29.03.2012

John Donovan, who worked with Shell, reveals damaging information on the oil giant. This personal revenge has already cost the Anglo-Dutch company billions of dollars.

John Donovan, 64, is a meticulous man and very knowledgeable. For several years he has spent most of his time on what he describes as his “super-hobby”: the website royaldutchshellplc.com with scoops on the evils of the multinational.

We simply ask the leaders of Shell to respect the principles they claim to honor already.

That in a nutshell the site’s purpose: to expose the failings of the oil giant to force it to stick to its business principles of integrity, honesty and transparency. “Shell wants to attract ethical shareholders by posing as a respectable business,” complains the former employee of the group.

Through a network of informants in high places within the oil company, the owner and main contributor seems to know everything. It is above all a personal story between the company and the British pensioner.

A well-documented feud

Names, dates, details: the retired Englishman remembers everything. Reached by telephone, he recites his history with Shell methodically, as if repeated. Once upon a time, in the 1980s, John and his father Alfred Donovan created promotions for Shell customers.

The scratch games and lotteries were a hit with customers and boosted sales of fuel.

My father and I had a wonderful relationship of trust with the group, they were delighted with our work  Donovan recalls, “but everything changed when they hired a new employee in their marketing department.” The newcomer then appropriated many of the ideas of Donovan and refused to pay.

Over the ensuing four trials, the relationship between Shell and its former advertising deteriorated to the point that in 2004, when Alfred Donovan learns that the company is preparing to change its official name, he jumped at the opportunity and purchased the rights of Internet domain Royaldutchshellplc.com.

A site that claims its integrity

John Donovan maintains that he automatically checks the information provided to it by circulating it to several internal sources to verify authenticity before publishing.

Contacted by telephone Wednesday, Shell declined to comment about this annoying site.

It is not uncommon for John Donovan to find in his mailbox job applications, professional sales proposals and even terrorist threats directed at the oil company. It should be clear that it is an anti-Shell site, but there are many people who do not pay attention.

Knockout

John Donovan still remembers its most significant blow. On 25 November 2005, he warned the Russian government that safety standards of Sakhalin-2 project were inadequate. Shell, the majority shareholder of the project, saw its shareholding reduced from 55% to 27.5%. “By losing their majority stake, it is certain that they had to give up tens of billions of dollars,” said John Donovan with a hint of pride.

The talkative retiree does not stop at this stunt; the financing of armed groups in Nigeria, scandal of the overestimation of oil reserves, discrimination against older employees in some refineries : John Donovan continues to expose the actions of the multinational, and he is not ready to give up.

“I work on the site seven days a week, several hours a day, and I hope to live as long as my father, who turns 95 in a few days. I still have plenty of time to spend with my little hobby.”

ORIGINAL ARTICLE IN FRENCH

Above is a non-professional translation.

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