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Shell caught red-handed in Make Money deception

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

By way of background information, my company, Don Marketing, did not know that the new Shell executive (AJL) we were dealing with was intent on setting up his own business from inside Shell and was busy funnelling Shell projects to a company with whom he had a special relationship. AJL recorded in his diary his intention to retire from Shell at the age of 35. AJL had already engaged in a throughly corrupt scheme involving other Shell managers and Shell’s legal department who together conspired to deceive and steal Intellectual Property from innocent participants in the tender process for a major Shell contract. Some 36 companies wrongly thought they were participating in an honest Shell tender and invested time and resources when in fact they never had a chance of winning the contract. It was awarded to a company that never ran in the race. The one with whom AJL had a special relationship. I supplied full information about the corrupt tender process to Malcolm Brinded. He inexplicably gave his full support to AJL. Hence two subsequent decades of acrimony that have cost Shell billions and put Shell in a position where it has to put up with repeated publication of the extremely damaging facts. There is no libel if what is being stated is true. In the decades before AJL was appointed, we had a mutually very successful relationship with Shell.

From pages 44 & 45

Extracts Begin

While already engaged in pre-litigation discussion with Shell over the Nintendo Gameboy themed promotion, AJL raised the subject of Shell Make Money and said Shell could run it without us.

I offered to let AJL have sight of the original written agreement between Shell and Don Marketing.  He said that he was not interested in seeing it. A transcript of the astonishing phone conversation is available to read.

(Alerted by that time to his predatory nature, I had taken the precaution of recording the pre-litigation telephone conversations.)

Despite assurances from Shell that nothing was going on, I checked with an insider source and discovered that the same printer we had used in 1984 – Dobson & Crowther – was already printing 100 million Shell Make Money game pieces. We had caught AJL red-handed and immediately issued a High Court Writ against Shell seeking an injunction.

Shell was forced to settle our Shell Make Money claim, but the rancor increased after we issued High Court proceedings for the NIntendo Gameboy and “Now Showing” promotions.

When Shell did launch the Make Money game, we discovered that the game pieces were insecure and it was possible to identify and remove all of the winning game pieces.

Shell executives took up our offer to prove that the game was insecure, and therefore, open to exploitation by dishonest forecourt employees. We performed the demonstration in the presence of my solicitor Richard Woodman of Royds (City of London) and a team of Shell lawyers. Shell continued with the promotion despite knowing that the security was hopelessly flawed.

While the subsequent litigation was in progress, I received an invitation from Dr. Chis Fay to meet him at Shell-Mex House in London. Dr. Fay was at the time Chief Executive and Chairman of Shell UK Limited. I had two meetings with him, the first lasting for nearly two hours. His butler provided refreshments.

Fay offered, and my father and I accepted, a substantial financial package worth £125,000 in the form of a unique Funding Deed.

Shell offered the Funding Deed partly in return for agreeing to file a notice of discontinuance in respect of a High Court libel action my father had brought against Shell and to cease our campaigning activities.

The entire terms set out therein provide an indication of the extensive scope of our activities.

The terms were also designed to also end the activities of The Shell Corporate Conscience Pressure Group – an organisation founded by us – of which nearly 15% of all Shell retailers in the UK were members. Several hundred participated in “business ethic” surveys about Shell mounted by the Pressure Group, which published the results in whole page notices in the UK forecourt press.

Related media coverage and examples of the leaflets and published survey results can be seen in the screenshot gallery at the end of this chapter.

The first three actions – Shell Make Money, the Nintendo Gameboy concept and the Movie themed promotion, together with the libel action brought by my father, were eventually all settled by Shell out of court.

I also received an unsolicited letter of apology from Dr. Fay.


The war between Shell and my family, as described in the City Diary article published by The Times in 2007, was also fought in the libel courts.

The first defamation action was the aforementioned case brought in my fathers’ name. It resulted from an extraordinary press statement issued by Shell UK Media Relations on 17 March 1995.

We wrote to the then Managing Director of Shell UK Limited, Mr. David Varney, giving Shell the opportunity to retract. Our ultimatum and its rejection by Shell was recorded for posterity in a news article published by Forecourt Trader the following month, April 1995.

Extracts from the article:

Shell speaks out over Don

Shell has broken its vow of silence and issued a strongly-worded statement to defend itself against what it sees as “the growing number of untrue and often offensive allegations being made by Don Marketing”.

Don Marketing also alleges that it plans to produce a book, and has sent a questionnaire to Shell sites in the UK attempting to assemble negative views of Shell. Shell believes these actions are an attempt to sully its reputation with sensationalist allegations in the hope the company will be forced into settling false claims.”

Don Marketing has faxed Shell md David Varney giving him “seven days to retract certain defamatory claims within the statement after which,” said John Donovan, “we will issue libel proceedings”. Shell’s response is steadfast: “What we said is true and accurate.”

Extracts from the John Donovan ebook ends.

(Shell later settled the high court litigation brought in relation to SHELL SMART and the libel action.


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

An unscrupulous Shell executive


Secret Shell Writ Losses

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

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