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Royal Dutch Shell leadership: Bring back Sir Henri Deterding

Screen Shot 2014-02-01 at 10.22.50If only it was possible to resurrect Sir Henri Deterding at his best, the extraordinary Dutchman who built the Royal Dutch Shell Group. In his first couple of decades at Shell he was a brilliant decisive leader brimming with ambition, ideas and incredible determination. He would have acted to exploit BP’s self-inflicted misfortunes, whereas Van der Veer and Voser let the opportunity pass and instead took Shell down a disastrous path placing all bets on so-called elephant projects that turned out to be white elephants.

By John Donovan

In my view, the last Shell executive director/Chairman who had any gumption and plain commonsense was Sir John Jennings.

Since his time, long term Shell shareholders have witnessed a parade of hopelessly incompetent Royal Dutch Shell fat cat bosses.

The roll call of failed leaders includes Sir Philip Watts, Jeroen van der Veer and Peter Voser.

All three mired by disappointment and scandal.

Jorma Ollila has been non-executive Chairman of Royal Dutch Shell Plc for several years spanning the tenures of the last two failed CEO’s and has proven equally uninspiring and flawed.

Its obviously too early to make any firm judgement about Ben van Beurden in his new role, although I fear that he may be overwhelmed if this article is any guide.

Perhaps his “strange explanations” for Shell’s dire situation result from the realisation of what a fine mess the company is in.

It should not have come as a complete shock given his decades with the company, for the last year as an executive director working closely with Voser.

If only it was possible to resurrect Sir Henri Deterding at his best, the extraordinary Dutchman who built the Royal Dutch Shell Group.

In his first couple of decades at Shell he was a brilliant decisive leader brimming with ambition, ideas and incredible determination.

He would have acted to exploit BP’s self-inflicted misfortunes, whereas Van der Veer and Voser let the opportunity pass and instead took Shell down a disastrous path placing all bets on so-called elephant projects that turned out to be white elephants.

Unfortunately the huge success of Deterding, becoming a globally known figure meddling in international politics and intrigue, constantly quoted in the news media, eventually went to his head and like Sir Philip Watts, he turned into a megalomaniac.  In his later years at Shell, Sir Henri became an ardent supporter of his close co-conspirator Adolf Hitler (with shared ambitions on Russian oil fields), and saved the Nazi party from financial collapse by pumping in funds generated on Shell forecourts around the globe.

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