By John Donovan
In 1979, the company I co-founded, *Don Marketing, created and supplied promotional games that were used to promote petrol sales on the forecourts of all major petrol brands in the UK, including Shell.
In June 1981, we moved into a direct contractual relationship with Shell as a result of a presentation I made at Shell-Mex House in The Strand, the then London HQ of Shell UK Limited.
I put forward a proposal for Shell to launch a legal version of a promotional game called Make Money that Shell had abandoned in the 1960‘s out of concern that it was in breach of UK lottery laws.
The name of my Amazon Kindle book – “John Donovan, Shell’s nightmare” is not an ego-driven title dreamt up by me, but the headline of an article by an award-winning newspaper journalist, Christoph Giesen published across the EU in ten languages.
A broadsheet German daily newspaper, Süddeutsche Zeitung published a major article about me on 20 March 2012 under the headline “Konzernfeind No. 1.”
The article by Christoph Giesen told the story of my epic feud with the oil giant Royal Dutch Shell, a former client of the multinational company I co-founded, Don Marketing.
Over a decade of spectacular mutual success followed by two decades of hostilities, including sinister episodes of cloak and dagger activity by Shell against my father and me.
The English translation of the above newspaper headline: Shell’s enemy No.1
It 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.
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 funnelled our ideas to a promotions agency with whom he had a special relationship.
Shell stole confidential intellectual property from us on several occasions. We sued and Shell settled. The settlements were inevitably surrounded by secrecy and deception designed to prevent embarrassing information from reaching third parties, particularly Shell shareholders.
LITIGATION BETWEEN 1994 AND 1996
Shell tried to keep the court settlements in the pre-Smart litigation secret – see pdf of magazine feature – “High Court papers unveil ‘secret’ Shell writ losses.”
The feature published in April 1998 was spread over several pages of Marketing Week magazine.
Shell settlements with me were inevitably surrounded by secrecy and deception designed to prevent embarrassing information reaching third parties, particularly Shell shareholders.
The first three High Court actions brought by Don Marketing were in respect of short-term promotions. Namely, a rerun of Shell Make Money; a Nintendo Gameboy themed instant win game, and a “Now Showing” movie-themed promotion.
In October 1996, I received an unsolicited letter of apology from Shell Chairman Dr. Chris Fay for the way we were treated by Shell. His letter arrived after Shell had already settled out of court with us for four High Court actions and one County Court case. As can be seen, the tone of the letter not meant for public consumption was totally at odds with press releases issued by Shell before and after his letter. The tone of the apology letter from Dr Fay (shown immediately below) was totally at odds with press releases and statements published or distributed to third parties by Shell before and after his letter. Examples are displayed. It is therefore difficult to avoid the conclusion that the apology letter was disingenuous.
This page last updated 26 August 2021.
Titled Shell directors, the late Sir Peter Holmes, and Sir William Purves were also directors, major shareholders and the spymasters of Hakluyt & Company, a UK corporate espionage firm founded by former senior MI6 officers. Shell used Hakluyt to engage in cloak and dagger operations against its perceived enemies, including Greenpeace, as exposed in a Sunday Times front-page lead article “MI6 ‘firm’ spied on green groups.” It led to a follow-on inside page headlined “How agent Camus sunk Greenpeace oil protests”.
When Shell first instigated a cloak and dagger operation against us, we had no knowledge of the oil giants long-time involvement in the dark arts.
I first mentioned the subject of investigative activity in a letter dated 15 June 1998 that I sent to Dr Chris Fay, the then Chairman & Chief Executive of Shell UK Limited. It was also copied to Shell lawyers.
From paragraph 4 of page 3:
“Shell did retain an investigative specialist in connection with the previous litigation. They made investigations about me going back over a decade.”
We suspended our website don-marketing.com before the Smart trial commenced in June 1999.
The trial actually commenced on 15th June 1999 in Court 58 on the 7th Floor of the modern air-conditioned Thomas More Building at the Royal Courts of Justice in London.
HIGH COURT TRIAL JUNE/JULY 1999 Case No: DD04199 Court 58 John Alfred Donovan v. Shell UK Ltd
At the start of the trial the Judge, Mr Justice Laddie QC commented that it was one of the most unpleasant cases that had ever come before him, with both sides making extremely serious allegations against each other.
Personal Intervention of Judy Moody-Stuart
Days before the Smart trial commenced, a magazine published an article containing a reference to an extraordinary personal intervention by Judy Moody-Stuart, the Quaker wife of the Shell Chairman, Mark Moody-Stuart. (Now Sir Mark & Lady Judy Moody-Stuart).
The latest part of the claim has seen Donovan set up a website attacking Shell, he has also picketed the Shell Centre at Waterloo and disrupted the oil giant’s 100th Anniversary AGM. The latest bizarre development in the case is an intervention in the form of a letter from the wife of Mark Moody-Stuart, the head of Shell International. In her letter to Donovan, Judy Moody-Stuart pleads with Donovan to stop attacking her husband saying ‘I’ve had enough of reading your miserable destructive comments about a great group of people, Shell people, and their organisation’. She then urges Donovan to spend his time working for the charity Centrepoint before wishing him ‘good luck in coming to terms with the world.’
Regretfully, it became evident that the controversial Judge, the late Mr Justice Laddie (above) appointed to hear the case was not impartial. He strongly objected to our “high-profile campaign” against Shell and failed to disclose his connections with Shell.
Before the trial began Mr Justice Laddie notified my solicitors that he was a participant in the Shell SMART multi retail partner loyalty card scheme. The promotional concept that happened to be the subject of the litigation. I advised that this was not a problem. It was the only Shell connection that he declared.
The peace did not last for long. Shell offered information about me to a third party company that could only be construed as being damaging to my reputation. I served notice on Shell that this breach by Shell amounted to a repudiation of the agreement. Shell threatened to take related legal action, but tellingly, did not do so. Hostilities resumed with subsequent news coverage, including the above Sunday Times article.
In 2001, a third party company approached Shell to confirm that Shell would not object to the launch on the Internet of a paperless Make Money type game. My involvement as a consultant to the company was disclosed to Shell.
Shell took the opportunity to offer information to the company that could only be construed as being damaging to my reputation. I had hoped that the project would restart my career, but Shell’s intervention torpedoed that prospect.
The information Shell brought up and offered to supply to the company was the “Judges Comments.”
Shell’s retained sales promotion agency, Senior King, complained in writing to Shell senior management about the lack of ethics displayed by Shell’s National Promotions Manager AJL in his dealings with them.
I found evidence of how AJL had also misled the previously mentioned John Armstrong-Homes who put up a promotional idea to Shell. His witness statement is self-explanatory. The same applies to a witness statement from a Mr. Mike McMahon.
I was the only victim of AJL brave (or foolish) enough to sue Shell.
For some unknown reason, Shell UK executives decided to give AJL their full support despite all that had come to light.
In a spectacular blunder, Shell neglected to register the top-level domain name for the newly merged company Royal Dutch Shell Plc. Shell lawyers discovered, no doubt to their shock and horror, that their most enduring critic had beaten them to the registration of royaldutchshellplc.com. Shell issued proceedings via the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) as reported by the Wall Street Journal (above) but in a spectacular public humiliation, Shell lost the case.
In 2004, a huge scandal engulfed the Royal Dutch Shell Group after it fraudulently over-stated its claimed oil and gas reserves – the most important factor in determining the value of an oil company.
As a direct consequence, the Anglo-Dutch arms of the Royal Dutch Shell Group – Shell Transport and Trading Company Plc and Royal Dutch Petroleum Company, were forced to merge into a single new company: Royal Dutch Shell Plc.
However, in a spectacular blunder, Shell neglected to register what was the top-level domain name for the new company. Shell lawyers discovered, no doubt to their consternation and horror, that their most enduring critic had beaten them to the registration of royaldutchshellplc.com.
We receive insider information about Shell from a variety of sources. From disgruntled Shell employees; from Shell itself in response to Subject Access Requests; from information, Shell has sent to us by accident and from searching and retrieving documents from court files. We have, for example, published a leaked internal email from an incoming Chief Executive Officer of Royal Dutch Shell Plc on the same day he sent it, resulting in another huge embarrassment for Shell.
As indicated above, we receive insider information about Shell from a number of different sources.
The first is from Shell itself.
Shell has supplied Shell internal documents and internal emails directly to me in compliance with a series of SAR applications.
The internal documents revealed that Shell secretly set up a counter-measures team and mounted a global spying operation in a determined, but unsuccessful bid to stop the flow of Shell insider information to me.
Another source is from disgruntled Shell employees who have supplied insider information and Shell internal documents and internal emails.
Shell cloak and dagger activities against me have continued in more recent years but this time on a global basis, as revealed in a Reuters article (extract above). The most recent spying of which I am aware was directed at me, my website and against Shell’s own employees.
We receive insider information about Shell from a variety of sources. From disgruntled Shell employees; from Shell itself in response to Subject Access Requests; from information Shell has sent to us by accident and from searching and retrieving documents from court files.
We discovered from SAR requests that the continued website activity on our part triggered further sinister moves by Shell, this time targeting my website, myself and Shell employees.
Some of the information became the subject of a Reuters article by Tom Bergin published 2 December 2009 under the headline: “Shell critic says oil major targeting his website”
A prominent Internet critic of Royal Dutch Shell (RDSa.L) says the oil major has asked an anti-cyber fraud agency to target his site, which Shell admits provides better information on the group than its own internal communications.
The above logo is for “CAS” – a shadowy Shell Group Corporate Affairs unit populated by spooks led by former high-level MI6 and FBI officers.
James W.D. Hall is Vice President of Corporate Security, located at Royal Dutch Shell plc’s Global Headquarters in the Netherlands. Hall, a mysterious British Citizen, was described in a June 2017 U.S. court document as “the top executive in Shell’s entire Corporate Security Organization…” He is identified by name in a related article “Spectacular falling out of ‘Security Professionals’ at the top of Shell.“
I became a target of CAS possibly out concern over my anticipated interest in a set of history books being published about Royal Dutch Shell. They contained information about Shell’s Dutch leadership financial support for Nazi Germany. Also anxiety about my contact with Shell whistleblowers, some of whom leaked confidential Shell emails and documents.
There were a number of issues, which we know from the SAR generated Shell internal emails, was causing significant concern at Shell in 2007 and 2009. They may have been among the factors that triggered sinister activity against us by Shell in that period.
ISSUE: THE THEN PENDING PUBLICATION OF “A HISTORY OF ROYAL DUTCH SHELL” VOLUMES 1 TO 4
On Sunday 11 March 2007, the author of a Shell internal email marked as “Legally Privileged and Confidential,” sent from the Netherlands, expressed anxiety about my anticipated interest in the pending publication of “A History of Royal Dutch Shell” – a work of four volumes, which included information and evidence of Shell’s connection with Hitler and the Nazi party:
Also D will be scrutinising the new Shell History (out on 5 July) and doubtless making all sorts of new allegations based on it.”
Because of my horrendous experience with Shell, I have regularly warned third parties to take all possible precautions when approaching Royal Dutch Shell with confidential commercially valuable information e.g. new ideas.
We have published a number of related articles:
Shell GameChanger – Scam, or Genuine Game Changer?: 10 June 2014
Is it safe to disclose ideas to Shell GameChanger?: 7 June 2014
Shell Oil Must Pay $153.6 Mln Award to Union Carbide: 17 June 2012
Shell investigates alleged IP theft at Geelong Refinery: 21 April 2012
ENERTAG PATENTS: MORE ROYAL DUTCH SHELL IP CHICANERY?: 4 November 2009
Shell in deepwater, accused of more IP theft: 13 August 2008
It is a fact that our website has been used to publish public appeals on behalf of a number of parties, including the WWF and Friends of the Earth, who wanted to reach Shell shareholders, Shell employees, or the public. Information about the various public appeals can be found on a Wikipedia archive article from which the above extract is taken.
Royaldutchshellplc.com has been used to publish public appeals on behalf of a number of parties who wanted to reach Shell shareholders and/or Shell employees, or the public e.g.
The Sunday Telegraph published an article by Juliette Garside under the headline “Online revolutionaries“ containing a reference to the Donovans and their website.
The long-lasting hostility between Shell and the Donovan family has not escaped the attention of the news media and other interested parties, such as The One World Trust, an independent research organisation associated with the UK Houses of Parliament and the United Nations.
Some memorable articles have been published regarding our activities and our website.
This closing chapter is about a victory I scored over Shell in 2015. The above screenshot is from an article published in the Financial Times on 5 February 2015.
Extract from the article:
“Royal Dutch Shell is facing a storm of criticism after deciding to proceed with plans to bring a ship named after a Nazi war criminal into UK waters to decommission the Brent oilfield…”
In January 2015, The Observer newspaper published a major article by its chief correspondent Ed Vulliamy under the headline:
“Jewish outrage as world’s largest ship, named after SS war criminal, arrives in Europe”.
It reported: “Leaders of Jewish communities and Holocaust memorial groups in Britain and the Netherlands have reacted with rage and despair at the arrival in Rotterdam of the world’s biggest ship, the Pieter Schelte, named after a Dutch officer in the Waffen-SS.”
The owner of the ship, Mr Edward Heerema, founder of the Allseas Shipping Group, named his new vessel after his father, a pioneer of the offshore oil industry, Pieter Schelte Heerema. In World War 2, he was an officer in the German Waffen-SS.
The Ed Vulliamy article quoted from a petition I launched online asking Edward Heerema to rename the ship.
Guardian Online published his article on Saturday 24 January 2015. It appeared in The Observer newspaper the following day.
Extracts: Cidi cited a petition organised by a British-based website monitoring the affairs of Royal Dutch Shell, the energy group, which trumpeted the ship’s arrival in Rotterdam and which Allseas confirms in a press release to be among its early clients. The site, Royaldutchshellplc.com, is run by John Donovan, a former Shell contractor who is completing a book on the history of the company’s relations with the Third Reich. His petition reads: “Please change the ship’s name so that it no longer sails under the name of a former Waffen-SS officer jailed for war crimes.” Donovan told the Observer: “This public homage by Edward Heerema as the wealthy son of a Nazi war criminal is an affront to the relatives of tens of millions of souls who perished at the hands of Nazi Germany. The name is unacceptable.”
Shell was aware of the intent to name the giant Allseas vessel after a Nazi war criminal but still went ahead with its plans to become one of the first clients to use the ship.
The astonishing story was also covered by Mail Online and many other publishers around the world, including the Dutch equivalent to the Financial Times, a Middle-East focused website and Jewish publications, such as the Jewish Business News and The Jewish Chronicle.
Selection of related webpage header images from our RoyalDutchShellPlc.com sister website, also operated by John Donovan
The webpage header images below provide some further indication of Shell’s past and current activities and its long-term feud with John Donovan, the founder of this and 10 other Shell related websites.
As previously stated, Shell did take action several years ago in regard to the alleged wrongful use of trademarks and domain names (including royaldutchshellplc.com and royaldutchshellgroup.com) but lost the case.
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