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. read more
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
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.read more
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.read more
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.
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.read more
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. read more
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.’read more
Regretfully, it became evident that the controversial Judge, the late Mr Justice Laddie (above) was not impartial. He strongly objected to our “high-profile campaign” against Shell and failed to disclose his connections with Shell.
Condemned our campaigning activities
On the first morning of the trial, out of the blue, the judge made comments signalling that he was aware of our campaigning activity against Shell. He brought up the subject by saying to my barrister Geoffrey Cox: “I know at one stage your client was a moving force behind the body which was protesting at Shell’s allegedly improper business practices.”
This was a reference to the Shell Corporate Conscience Pressure Group set up by my father and me which hundreds of Shell UK retailers and suppliers joined. The relevant exchanges in open court can be read immediately below. Our campaigning which he deemed improper was at the back of his mind right from the start.
He must have read the discovery information and noted the relevant allegations before the trial had even begun.
The judge did not suggest that such activities were illegal but as will become clear, he did frown on them, to put it mildly.
Given his strong feelings on the subject, he should have stepped down and not allowed his negative first impression to fester.
His comments were Innocuous at first sight, but when considered in conjunction with his later recital at the end of the trial of a letter I had sent to Marketing Week magazine, it was plain that he was appalled from the outset by my campaigning activities against Shell. The letter in question was published by Marketing Week magazine on 25 February 1999.The judge condemned my letter and made clear his strong objections to my “high profile campaign,” listing my activities in this regard, including operating websites. He said not a single word about Shell’s use of undercover activity mentioned in the same letter. Shell’s covert activities were ignored, my perfectly lawful campaigning castigating Shell for not abiding by its own claimed business principles was viewed by him as beyond the pale. See the section entitled SHELL BUSINESS PRINCIPLES at the foot of this webpage. The incendiary remarks were made by Mr Justice Laddie in the so-called “Judges Comments” – comments made by him when he was supposedly going to “rubber stamp” a settlement agreed between the parties. His rant about my campaigning put the settlement potentially at risk and showed just how worked up he was on a subject that had grabbed his attention from the outset.
His related comments on day one were an early signal. He had apparently formed a smouldering bias against me on those grounds from the kick-off.
I was told that it was not necessary to attend court in relation to the settlement since it was just a formality. Hence, I was not there to hear what the judge said and only obtained a transcript of his comments years later after Shell director Richard Wiseman brought them to my attention.read more
An article published by Prospect Magazine in February 2007 authored by Derek Brower, senior correspondent of Petroleum Economist, provides an overall background to the disputes between Royal Dutch Shell and Alfred Donovan and his son, John.
John Donovan (right) and John Chambersat Don Marketing Hornchurch offices in 1984
For more photos see Don Marketing Photo File donmarketingphotofile.html
Don Marketing was founded by Alfred Donovan, Bob Donovan, John Donovan and their fondly remembered friend and business partner, chartered accountant, Don Redhead (deceased). Alfred, Bob and John are all retired from commercial activity. John Chambers was managing director during the most successful years of Don Marketing which, following a series of court actions with Shell, ceased trading some years ago.read more
Two decades before co-founding Don Marketing, John Donovan was in the petrol retailing business with his father Alfred Donovan operating a chain of petrol stations and garages in East London and Essex. Their main garage, known initially as East & Donovan and later as A & J Donovan, held Standard-Triumph and Leyland light commercial franchises.
In 1967, Alfred and John Donovan founded Jackpot Promotions, which launched a Freeline Football petrol sales promotion at garages throughout the UK, including Fina, Cleveland, Amoco and independent petrol stations. The computer-printed football coupons – examples below – were printed by Thomas De La Rue. Each contained a different pre-paid entry on Zetters Pools.
Freeline Football used Australian football teams in the summer season.
In 1979, Alfred and John co-founded Don Marketing with Bob Donovan and Don Redhead and launched a modified Freeline Football promotion on “no purchase necessary” basis.
DON MARKETING PROMOTIONAL GAMES FROM 1979 ONWARDS.
(Left to right) Roger Sotherton (Managing Director), John Donovan (Chairman) and Ken Brown (Operations Director).
Some Don Marketing staff including Steven Donovan and Lisa, smiling.
DON MARKETING OCCUPIED THE ENTIRE TOP FLOOR OF CRITERION HOUSE IN CHELMSFORD.
The Game pieces displayed below are not actual size.
GAMES FOR SHELL
SHELL MAKE MONEY GAME 1984 FOR SHELL UK
Don Marketing supplied the Make Money game on an international basis for Shell, including Shell Singapore – poster immediately below.
The “Every Card Can Win Shell Star Trek scratch card game was invented for Shell by promotional games wizard John Donovan (photo left from a magazine article published at that time).
Donovan was a co-founder of the promotional games company Don Marketing which was responsible for creating a host of innovative forecourt games for Shell on an international basis including Shell Make Money, Shell Mastermind (linked to the BBC), Shell Make Merry (linked to Harrods) Shell Bruce’s Lucky Deal (linked to Bruce Forsyth) and Star Trekthe Game linked to the original Star Trek TV series and the follow-up Star Trek: The Next Generation. Each promotion had a budget of around £4.5 million. Don Marketing games for Shell ran in several countries around the globe.read more
In 1985 John Donovan had the idea of a playing card themed game. This became “Bruce’s Lucky Deal”, a game offering over £4.5 worth of prizes, which was linked to Bruce Forsyth, the popular host of the UK TV game show, “Play Your Cards Right”. The novelty of the promotion launched in the summer of 1985 once again generated media interest and an article in the Financial Times mentioned that the order for 4.5 million packs of Shell-branded Carta Mundi quality playing cards was the world’s largest-ever purchase of its kind. 85 million “Every Card Can Win” scratch cards were printed. Thepromotion ran on Shell forecourts in the UK and Ireland.read more
In the Autumn of 1984, Don Marketing devised a Make Merry” scratch card game linked to Harrods, with the idea that Shell would give away on their forecourts millions of Harrods food prizes. Before we disclosed the concept to Shell, we discussed initial arrangements with Harrods for the design of the card and the supply of Harrods food product prizes. The concept was enthusiastically accepted by Shell. We negotiated the purchase of over £2 million pounds worth of goods from Harrods on behalf of Shell, including 6 million mince pies and £10,000 Harrods Shopping Spree prizes. The promotion was launched in the last quarter of 1984 and featured in a Channel News TV report.read more
The Shell Mastermind promotion was launched Monday 2rd July 1984
Large Shell Mastermind forecourt poster. Approx size: 35 x 45 cm portrait.
(John Donovan with Shell Mastermind poster, October 2020)
Front cover of Marketing Magazine published 6 September 1984
SCREENSHOTS FROM BBC TV MONEY PROGRAMME ON BBC TV (presented by Brian Widelake and Valerie Singleton). PACKAGE FOCUSSED MAINLY ON SHELL MASTERMIND. THE BBC FILMED DON MARKETING’S SUPERVISION OF THE PRINTING OF THE SHELL MASTERMIND GAME IN NORTH WALES.
SCREENSHOT OF JOHN CHAMBERS FILMED INTERVIEW ON “THE MONEY PROGRAMME” WHEN THE SHELL MASTERMIND GAME WAS STILL IN PROGRESS AND MORE MASTERMIND GAME PIECES WERE BEING PRINTED.
TWO SCREENSHOTS SHOWING SHELL MASTERMIND GAME PIECES BEING PRINTED BY DOBSON & CROWTHER PRINTERS IN NORTH WALES
DON MARKETING CO-FOUNDER DON REDHEAD, FILMED SEEDING THE MAJOR PRIZES DURING THE SHELL MASTERMIND PRINT RUN OF 96 MILLION GAME PIECES
KEN BROWN CARRYING OUT PRIZE VERIFICATION OF SHELL MASTERMIND MAJOR PRIZE CLAIMS
SCREENSHOTS OF DON MARKETING MANAGEMENT TRAINEE SWEN OLSEN FILMED OPERATING A VIDEO VERIFICATION CAMERA DURING THE MAJOR PRIZE VERIFICATION PROCESS OF THE SHELL MASTERMIND GAME
MAGNIFYING DEVICE BEING USED ON A SHELL MASTERMIND GAME PIECE CLAIM FOR A £500 PRIZE
SCREENSHOT OF FINAL INTERVIEW SEGMENT WITH JOHN CHAMBERS ON “THE MONEY PROGRAMME”
SCREENSHOT- CLOSING MAIN CREDITS FROM “THE MONEY PROGRAMME”
John Smeddle, Sales Manager, Shell UK Oil said: “The success of Make Money, which we launched in February, is now a matter of record. It increased our trade and helped to change the petrol market from one concentrating almost exclusively on price to one where we could create interest and excitement for the motorist buying petrol at a fair price. read more
Shell has run three versions of the Shell Make Money game in the UK.
THE 1966 VERSION
The first, in 1966 (above), offering cash prizes of up to £100, was created and supplied by Ralph Glendinning of Glendinning Associates, an American marketing consultancy. The game was a huge success but there were grave doubts about the legality. Shell was concerned about the possibility of being prosecuted in the UK for conducting an illegal lottery. Shell was also rightly concerned about the security of the half-note currency.
More information further down this page.
THE 1984 VERSION (THE MAIN SUBJECT OF THIS ARTICLE)
The second version was launched in 1984 (envelope above)offering cash prizes of up to £10,000. It was created and supplied by Don Marketing, a UK promotional games company founded by John Donovan, his family, and Don Redhead, a Chartered Accountant/mathematician. Don Marketing supplied a QC’s opinion to Shell confirming legality. The promotion, known internally as Operation Leo, was a huge success.read more