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Shell moving its headquarters from The Hague to London

The Swastika flag once flew on the classic Dutch facade of Royal Dutch’s head office at 30 Carel van Bylandtlaan in The Hague.

English translation of extracts from an article published by the FD.

The Shell top no longer plays for the Hague football club Wilhelmus

Marco Vlot 2 Dec 17:36

After more than a hundred years, Shell is moving its headquarters from The Hague to London. A shock for the city, even if only the top managers move and the rest of the staff remains in The Hague. Not everyone is confident that this will remain the case.

In brief

  • On December 10, Shell shareholders are likely to vote in favour of moving its headquarters to London.
  • For The Hague, where the head office was located for more than a hundred years, that is a loss.
  • In addition to direct employment, Shell also has a major impact on the rest of the economy in The Hague.

Anyone who walks through the Carel van Bylandtlaan in The Hague on December 11, on their way to the park behind it, will see no difference. And yet a lot has changed. The day before, Shell’s shareholders voted on the proposal to move the head office to London. The chance that they will vote against is minimal.

The buildings on ‘Shell Avenue’ continue to be populated by employees of the oil giant, only the top managers move to the British capital. But the significance for The Hague can be enormous.

‘That was an unexpected and unpleasant message’, says Saskia Bruines, the Hague alderman for Economic Affairs, looking back on the company’s announcement to leave her municipality.

“Shell is a very important employer for The Hague and the region. Not only are there many jobs associated with Shell’s presence, but the company is also deeply intertwined with the rest of the economy in The Hague.’

Political Relations

The Hague has been home to the oil company since 1890, when Shell’s predecessor, De Koninklijke Nederlandsche Maatschappij tot Exploitatie van Petroleumbrons in Nederlandsch-Indies, was founded. In 1917, the company moved into what is still its headquarters until its imminent move to London.

The reason for choosing The Hague at the time was politically driven. The company wanted to be close to the Ministry of Colonies, which issued the licenses for oil extraction in the Dutch East Indies. Shell is now leaving, after an abolition of the dividend tax promised by the Rutte cabinet has not gone through. Relations with politicians in The Hague have not improved in recent years.

About 1900 people currently work at the Carel van Bylandtlaan, more than 200 of whom come from abroad. These expats live, work and live in and around The Hague and thus contribute to the local economy, not to mention all foreign visitors to the company, who stay in hotels in The Hague and eat out in restaurants in The Hague.

Shell’s living room

‘Shops, hotels, restaurants, but also brokers, caterers, taxi companies, cleaners and even the Irish pub where many expats come owe a lot of their patronage to Shell,’ says Kim Schofaerts of MKB The Hague. In the AD Vincent Pahlplatz of the Marriott hotel in The Hague speaks of 75,000 to 100,000 rooms per year that Shell purchases. According to him, the second largest employer does not even get 10,000 rooms.

Keep jobs

‘It is important to emphasize that the Shell office in The Hague, with almost all functions, will remain’, says Bruines. ‘The sustainable energy sector in The Hague has grown considerably in recent years. Shell plays a role in this with the Renewables & Energy Solutions division, which will remain in The Hague.’

Less important

That expectation is shared by Willy Brandt. Before his retirement, as vice president of the offshore drilling company Transocean, he could regularly be found in The Hague where he sat down with Shell. ‘We stayed in The Hague with a number of representatives for about three days a month, including hotels and restaurants.’

‘Shell’s move to London will take place over a longer period of time,’ Brandt expects. ‘The change will not be immediately visible, but over a period of five years I believe that this will indeed be noticeable and felt in The Hague and the surrounding area.’

According to Brandt, this is mainly due to the fact that the importance of the Netherlands for companies that work with Shell will decrease. ‘That means, among other things, that fewer business visits will take place in The Hague.’

The departure of Shell’s head office, which Brandt attributes to a lack of political support, also does little good for the reputation of The Hague and the Netherlands as a place of business. ‘In this way, Dutch politics sends a bad signal to the outside world. From a foreign perspective, you don’t build trust with this to promote the Netherlands as an investment place’.

Taking social responsibility

Yet the chairman of MKB Den Haag is not only pessimistic. ‘Shell does a lot with renewable energy and, according to them, that will remain in The Hague. They also say that there will be a campus for that. I hope so, and you should trust them on that too. But suppose they leave, they should actually leave something behind so that the city can move on. Shell could then do this together with the municipality and umbrella organisations.’

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