Royal Dutch Shell Plc  .com Rotating Header Image

An unscrupulous Shell executive

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

From pages 37, 38 & 39


Extract begins

The actions of an ambitious, unethical young Shell executive, intent on ruthlessly exploiting his position at Shell for personal gain, poisoned the previously excellent relationship we had enjoyed with the oil giant. Unfortunately, Shell senior management gave their full backing to the relevant unscrupulous executive: a decision they must regret as it has since cost the Group billions of dollars.

In 1992, in our capacity as directors of Don Marketing, a colleague and I presented in strictest confidence, a series of sales promotion ideas to a new Shell UK National Promotions Manager.

As many years have past, I have only used within this book the initials – AJL – of the relevant individuals name. I cannot do the same for items already published i.e. linked documents, media articles, correspondence and electronic communications.

After giving us a very positive response to our proposals, including encouraging email messages, AJL secretly funneled our ideas to a promotions agency with whom he had a special relationship.

It was evident from AJL’s hand-written notes in his diary (obtained during “discovery” years later), that he was a disgruntled employee who had recorded his intent to set up a personal business while at Shell and exit the company at the age of 35. Presumably on the basis of building up sufficient funds in the meantime. He had an offshore bank account in Jersey.

His diary notes mention “Project Hercules,” the code name for “Shell Smart” – a multiple retail partner loyalty scheme. Shell Smart was based on a concept we had offered to him in strictest confidence during one of many presentations we made to him at Shell-Mex House.

The subsequent Smart breach of confidence litigation culminated in a High Court trial that begun on 15 June 1999. It concluded abruptly three weeks later, on 6 July, when the case was settled mid-trial. A related libel action I brought against Shell had been put on hold pending the outcome of the breach of confidence case.

Diary Entry May/June 1994

It seems from these pages of his diary that AJL intended to close his National Savings accounts and transfer funds from Nat West Bank (NWB) to other accounts in Jersey. AJL never had the opportunity to explain these notes during his cross-examination in the Smart High Court trial. Shell settled the case during his cross-examination.

Diary Entry Monday 25 July 1994

AJL listed his intention at the foot of the second page under “Personal”: Set up personal business while @ Shell 35yrs = exit date.

Diary Entry 12 October 1994

In the last four lines of an entry made on 12 October 1994 (second page) regarding “PDP” (Personal Development Plan?) AJL was noting that he had not received due credit for his work including involvement in Project Hercules. There were two references of an unknown nature to Don Marketing in those two pages of his diary.

I also found out from discovery documents, that AJL was prepared to engage in an illegal act on behalf of Shell in relation to “Hercules.” Extract from AJL email to senior Shell colleagues 4 Nov 1993:

NB: To answer your last point: My note of 25/10 is the official position, my note of 9/9 expressed a personal and pragmatic view of how to handle the problem’ it is in fact illegal and is certainly unofficial, and if we were discovered then we will enforce the official legal position – which is that all volume must currently be rewarded with promotional points.

AJL described himself in another internal email to several Shell colleagues as having“machiavellian views”.

I want so far as possible to allow everyone else to get involved in the elements of the project that they’d prefer rather than simply imposing my machiavellian views. Hence if you have any preferences can you express them from this little lot of areas which will need attention/work:

I would not argue with the accuracy of AJL’s own description of himself, which he self-evidently boasted about.

A definition from for “machiavellian” seems appropriate:

3. characterized by subtle or unscrupulous cunning, deception, expediency, or dishonesty: He resorted to Machiavellian tactics in order to get ahead.

Unfortunately, we were totally ignorant of this background when we innocently disclosed our ideas to AJL.

One after another, our ideas were adopted for national promotions launched by Shell, through the agency linked with AJL, with whom he had a personal relationship. He was a personal friend of the directors. They visited his house for dinner parties. He went to the theater with them. Information sourced from his diary entries.

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

Donovan family relationship with Shell

Long association with the Royal Dutch Shell

Since the 1990s, Shell has been at war with John Donovan

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

One Comment

  1. is there a scrupulous Shell executive

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Comment Rules

  • Please show respect to the opinions of others no matter how seemingly far-fetched.
  • Abusive, foul language, and/or divisive comments may be deleted without notice.
  • Each blog member is allowed limited comments, as displayed above the comment box.
  • Comments must be limited to the number of words displayed above the comment box.
  • Please limit one comment after any comment posted per post.