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The Group (Shell Group) Enemy No.1”

Non-professional translation (mainly by Google) of a whole page article authored by Christoph Giesen and published by the daily broadsheet German newspaper  Süddeutsche Zeitung (Munich). The article was published on 17 March 2012 under the headline: “Konzernfeind No.1” – translated as: “The Group (Shell Group) Enemy No.1”.

John Donovan has added some comments inserted in red text. 

A link to a pdf of the original article in German is provided at the foot of this page. 

Is Shell wishes to supply a professional translational, that will be substituted for the current version?

Group enemy No ‘. 1

John Donovan from Colchester in East England runs a very special website. The world’s largest oil company Shell has probably already lost a few billion dollars as a result

By Christoph Giesen

Text in BOX in the first column: An email went at 7:17 p.m. from England to President Putin in Moscow. The content was explosive.

London / Colchester – The enemy is heading for the door. He got up early and drove to London by car. Before he was quickly in the copy shop and has had a few handouts copied.

He’s got the car around the corner in one parking garage parked.

Now he stands on York Road, in front of the entrance to the Shell Centre, the headquarters of the most powerful oil company in the world.

The Centre is a huge grey concrete tower block from the sixties, right on the Thames.

If the oil managers look out of windows, they can see Parliament on the other side of the river.

The London Eye, Europe’s largest Ferris wheel, makes its rounds.

And now and then John Donovan can be seen below in front of the entrance, the early retiree from Colchester in eastern England. The man who cost Shell billions.

John Donovan, 64, has put on a tie, and the broad overcoat hides the stately stomach. He has let his white hair grow and combed it neatly over his bald head. “Here, read the truth about Shell,” he says, and tries to hand one of his green sheets to a puzzled assistant in a suit. She walks past him without saying a word.

John Donovan used to be more successful, he hired entire troops of homeless people, someone was there every day in front of the headquarters on York Road.

Today he no longer needs handouts.

To piss Shell off, he has a far more effective way.

John Donovan has operated the website for more than ten years, where he reports about abuses by the British-Dutch group.

He has published at least 25,000 items.

More than 20 senior Shell insiders provide him with regular information.

The inner life of a global corporation has never been as well documented as that of Shell.

Many companies are struggling with reputable shareholders, hedge fund managers like the American Guy Wyser Pratte are notorious annoying board members. In Japan, companies even hire full-time provocateurs to buy shares for them during the general meeting to ask their toughest competitors uncomfortable questions.

But John Donovan is the most persistent in the industry.

His protest costs him $147 a month. “I pay the money to my internet provider in Dallas, on whose server my site is located. Otherwise, I have no expenditure.”

At less than $2,000 a year, John Donovan puts a company under pressure, which has annual sales of $380 billion, more than the gross domestic product of states like Denmark or Thailand.

Without John Donovan’s website sales would have probably been even higher.

“I must have already cost the boys billions in there,  says Donovan and points to the Shell Centre.

After 30 minutes in the wind distributing campaigning leaflets, maybe 20 pieces of paper found new owners. “They weren’t many, but it is important is that they see my face from time to time.

“He runs to his car, an older French station wagon. There are dog toys on the seats. “They are from Max, my Labrador”. Donovan apologizes and starts the car. It goes back to Colchester in his personal headquarters, back to the fight against the multinational.

If you ask Shell about John Donovan and his website, the communication professionals are narrow-lipped: “No interview! No comment!”

Internal email reveals how much Shell fears his activities: “This website has already cost our company billions of dollars in sales,” writes a Shell Manager on July 15, 2009, 5:16 p.m. London time. “Is there a plan to close down the website? “

(Copy of relevant email below)

And even on the weekend, someone at Shell deals with corporate security and corporate communication with John Donovan’s homepage.

“We have to be careful about that.

Not giving the public the impression that we take the whole thing seriously, history has made it unnecessary.

Alarm sparks up employees, from the corporate headquarters in The Hague on Sunday evening of March 11, 2007, across the sea in London.

(Copy of relevant email below)

How dangerous early retiree Donovan Shell spates tens knows since November 25, 2005.

The radio plays carried music this evening, the brilliant footballer George Best died at noon in a hospital in London when John Donovan puts the computer on and is typing an email and at 19.17pm clicked the send button. “The email went to the then Russian President Vladimir Putin,” says John Donovan. He has silent for a long time on the way back, had to focus on traffic. Now London’s inner-city lies behind him.

“Writing to Putin,” he says.

“I’ve already met Shell.”

He provided detailed information in the email to the Russian government about Shell ‘s lax security standards at Sakhalin 2 oil drilling project. Shell was then the majority leader of a joint venture with the Russian oil company Gazprom.

The oilfield in eastern Siberia is one of Shell’s most important projects – 180,000 barrels of oil a day, 9.6 million tons of gas a year.

In his email, John Donovan refers to an internal email exchange that had been leaked to him. One of those responsible warns in the document his colleagues in London before that a disaster on one of the drilling platforms could be devastating. “He wrote that the oil spill off the coast of Alaska by the 1989 sinking tanker Exxon Valdez would be a laughable thing compared to what could happen in Sakhalin, “says Donovan.

An accident on one of the derricks could have consequences similar to those in the Gulf of Mexico.” Only with one damn difference, “says Donovan.” It’s in Siberia the sea often frozen over. A leak would be completely impossible.”

Soon after the emailing Vladimir Putin ended Shell’s majority leadership and demoted the company to a minority partner with a share of 27 per cent.
While the oil company senses industrial espionage, it is clear from then Russian Vice Environment Minister Oleg Mitvol in a newspaper interview about the origin of his information:  “The necessary information came by John Donovan from Colchester in England.”

Donovan has a scoop every few months: He can use internal documents to prove that Shell is in Nigeria partially cooperated with rebel armies. The Niger Delta is contaminated by oil spills for the past decade.
He has Shell’s complete internal address book on his computer. The CEO’s cell phone numbers, the supervisory board’s private addresses, everything. “But I don’t put it online to protect employees.”

What drives this man, why is he working on Shell of all things?

Until 1992, John Donovan and Shell were p
Together with his father Alfred, he founded the advertising agency Don Marketing.
It designed scratch card games and competitions in which Shell customers could take part if they had more than 50 litres of fuel.
(In fact, all Don Marketing promotions for Shell, which combined, involved the distribution of several hundred million game pieces in various countries, were given to drivers on a “no purchase necessary” basis)
The business relationship was ruined when Shell hired a new employee in the marketing department. This person adopted innumerable ideas that the Donovans had thought up and refused to pay.
Back then, 50 per cent of our sales came from Shell, we had to put up a fight. “So saw
Shell in court again. After four cases the company was a lengthy process risking bankruptcy and necessitated the sale of the father’s property and he (John) had to take out a massive mortgage on his own house.
In 1999 he, therefore, accepted a compromise with Shell. The company paid the court costs of several hundred thousand pounds.
In return, both parties agreed not to disclose more but Shell didn’t stick to the bargaining agreement and went to media about the process.
(Not entirely accurate. Shell settled the legal fees said to be over £1 million and I received a secret payment. Shell later acted in breach of the peace agreement. A fact Shell has not contested.)
A few miles from Colchester Donovan takes a look at the fuel gauge, he needs fuel, “But definitely not at Shell,” he says. .Over there is gasoline too. “He steers the car into the parking lot of one of these big suburban supermarkets, four petrol pumps under a canopy. John Donovan gets out, fumbles ten pounds out of his pocket and pushes it into a machine next to the fuel gauge. “That’s enough, to come home.” Eight litres seep into the tank.
A little later, John Donovan parks in the entrance of his small row house. He unlocks the side door and is right in the kitchen. “Well, right you can’t cook here anymore. “He
grins and opens the fridge. Out he fishes a file from one compartment.
“Every closet in this house is crammed with Shell documents, also in the garage and my
bedroom pile the files, nevertheless I still have an overview.”
John Donovan jams the papers under the arm. With a gentle kick he closes the refrigerator and invites into the next room.
The room is delivered with a plant, an old tube television, a broken fan, towering on the desk a stack of empty DVD’s. The Energy-saving lamps in the chandelier bathe the room in shimmering blue. In two computer screens whirl in the corner – half office, half storage room.
Donovan throws the Shell files on the desk and lets himself fall into the old armchair.
The little inconspicuous house in Colchester in eastern England is one of the centres of the global energy contest. The centre of a billion-dollar game. And early retiree John Donovan, 64, is one of the most powerful protagonists. From here he coordinates his campaign against Shell. It is a decent campaign.
Whenever he posts online he sends Richard Wiseman, Shell’s chief legal counsel, an email in advance.
“Dear Mr. Wiseman, as usual, you have 24 hours to react,” is usually the first sentence. Wiseman then replies frequently: “Dear Mr. Donovan, as usual we do not comment, but that doesn’t automatically mean that their information is correct. “
The two communicate with each other almost every day. Of course, Richard Wiseman doesn’t want to mess with the press either about his relationship with John Donovan or his website: “Thank you very much for the interview request, but I think that it would be appropriate for me to accept.”
Actually a shame, because Richard Wiseman appears in the daily struggle. His e-mails indicate that he and John Donovan are good  British sports.
“I have a rarity here,” says Donovan, pulling a document out of the mountain of paper in front of him.
An email from 9 November 2006. Shell’s chief legal counsel writes: “Dear Mr. Donovan, I
noticed that you got a fairly old photo of me. If you absolutely have to publish my picture, then please take a new one and hence more accurate. PS: I am naturally honoured that you have taken a photo used by me that is a few years old. “
Below the text is an image of an older man looking shyly at the camera. Rimless glasses, bald head and pinstripe suit. John Donovan looks at his adversary’s photo and smiles:
“Oh, actually likes me somehow. Sometimes he does to me even seem sorry.”
Finally, Wiseman could do nothing for him to Shell himself, his chosen enemy. “
The other oil companies are not much better, but my opponent remains Shell “
And it will remain in the coming years.
“My father is now over 90 years old. If I live that long, I have still a lot of time for my little
hobby. “John Donovan turns to his screen and retrieves his emails.
Shell is waiting for him, just like every day.

TEXT BOX IN THE LAST COLUMN: “The other oil companies are also not much better.”

Online grumbling

There is hardly a company against which there is no resistance on the Internet. The investment bank Goldman Sachs has difficulties with the Operators of the website. Bank of America haters have registered the domain

American Airlines has to live with the existence of the website.

With two or three clicks a striking address is quickly secured and a simple blog-like appearance invites you to linger.

In English, these protest pages are called “gripe sites” – nag websites.

 covered by American

Disappointed customers or former employees mostly keep themselves anonymous. For many companies, the gripe pages are annoying, but because of the very opinionative and often unqualified rage just a drop-off point for resentment. Well-founded criticism can be found in Consumer portals or if customers have the option, purchased ones. Products to review for example at Amazon.

John Donovan is an exception in the online battler scene. His site is not gossipy, he is the most important point of contact for criticism of the oil company. Whoever wants an overview of what is written above the Shell group is doing economically or is seeking the latest inside information has surfed his website.

Many Shell employees do exactly that. This is shown by the many IP addresses registered on Shell that visit his site every day.



The Shell email (referred to in the article) dated 11 March 2007 from a Dutch email address. Information had been redacted by Shell lawyers. The “Shell History” contained evidence of Shell’s dealings and support for the Nazis in the years running up to WW2.   See:

The above German newspaper article was republished on 27 March 2012 by the European Journal/VOXeurope in ten languages under the headline: “John Donovan, Shell’s nightmare.

A related TV documentary feature filmed in the UK and Russia was subsequently broadcast across Europe by Deutsche Welle (DW) the leading German TV international public broadcasting channel. It included an interview with former Russian Deputy Minister of the Environment, Oleg Mitvol, named in a Guardian newspaper article as a “Kremlin attack dog.” Film footage of President Putin appears in the feature.

This website and sisters,,,, and, are owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia segment.

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