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Donovan family relationship with Shell

Extracts from the ebook “John Donovan, Shell’s Nightmare” (now available on Amazon websites globally)

From pages 12, 13 & 14

Extract begins

My families’ relationship with Shell stretches back nearly 60 years.

My father jointly owned a garage in the county of Essex, with new car showrooms and extensive workshop facilities. He held new car franchises for Standard-Triumph and later, for Chrysler.

My sisters (Lynne and Jessie) and I worked for him from the late 1950’s. Myself, initially on a part-time basis, from when I was a 12-year-old schoolboy.

We all worked as petrol pump attendants. There was no self-service in those days. Goodness knows how much lead we inhaled during those early years filling up countless vehicles of all kinds.

It became a family business that quickly expanded into a small group of garages in East London and Essex.

Shell was one of our suppliers and their local man, John Withers,  was a regular visitor.

I left school at 15. I had no interest in education, no qualifications, or any obvious talent.

I served as a relief petrol station manager for Petrofina when I was 17 and three years later, took the tenancy on a Fina petrol station in Colchester, Essex: Britannia Service Station.

My father suffered long-term ill health resulting from his years serving in the British Army as a regular soldier, including throughout World War 2. He was involved in fighting the Japanese invaders in Burma and received campaign medals and a war disability pension. He was a great admirer of the Gurkha soldiers under his command.

When his health deteriorated, I took over day-to-day management of the garage group with my father in semi-retirement, providing invaluable advice, especially on the creative/marketing front.

We had a genuine flair for devising petrol sales promotions and were delighted to win an award from Chevron for one imaginative competition.

In 1979, with my father’s brother Bob Donovan and a chartered accountant/mathematician friend, Don Redhead (now sadly deceased), we jointly founded a sales promotion company, Don Marketing. It was based in the UK but later had overseas subsidiaries. I was the chief executive and eventually the chairman.

Bob Donovan and our office manager, Valerie Hewitt are shown in a photograph taken in 1979. They were visiting the security printers Rochford Thompson in Newbury, Berks, where one of our high-tech promotions, Freeline Football, was being produced.

We created and supplied marketing campaigns across the retail spectrum. Because of our background, gasoline forecourt promotions were a speciality.

A thirty-minute video from the 1980‘s viewable on YouTube, features a compilation of innovative promotions created by Don Marketing, including instant win forecourt games for Shell. 

My father later played a prominent role in my litigation and campaigning activities against Shell. He passed away in July 2013 at the age of 96. Shell did not have the grace to offer condolences.

I did receive a private message of condolences from a retired very senior person at Shell for which I was very grateful.

Extracts from the John Donovan ebook ends.


John Donovan, Shell’s nightmare: Genesis

John Donovan, Shell’s nightmare: Süddeutsche Zeitung article

GERMAN TV: John Donovan’s revelations cost Shell billions


How Shell lost its majority stake in Sakhalin II

John Donovan, Group Chairman, Royal Dutch Shell PLC companies

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

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