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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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:
Mirror Image of archival information relating to the Don Marketing / Shell litigation dating back over two decades
RICHARD WISEMAN, RETIRED ROYAL DUTCH SHELL PLC CHIEF ETHICS AND COMPLIANCE OFFICER. FORMERLY LEGAL DIRECTOR OF SHELL UK LIMITED. MR WISEMAN DEALT WITH THE JOHN DONOVAN/ DON MARKETING vs. SHELL LITIGATION ON BEHALF OF SHELL.
THREATS AND INTIMIDATION BY SHELL DURING PERIOD WISEMAN IN CHARGE OF SHELL UK DEFENCE
Letter from Shell solicitors DJ Freeman (AKA Kendall Freeman) challenging John Donovan to substantiate allegations about “Shell UK and its lawyers” having “bombarded my company and my family with threats over the years (verbally and in writing.” : 21 May 1998
1ST EXAMPLE OF SHELL INTENT TO PREVENT EMBARRASSING INFORMATION FROM REACHING SHAREHOLDERS
Flawed Shell Make Money Game
2ND EXAMPLE OF SHELL INTENT TO PREVENT EMBARRASSING INFORMATION FROM REACHING SHAREHOLDERS
3RD EXAMPLE OF SHELL INTENT TO PREVENT EMBARRASSING INFORMATION FROM REACHING SHAREHOLDERS
High-level April 1998 correspondence with Shell involving Richard Wiseman (see letter from Jyoti Munsiff – 6 April 1998
Reply letter from John Donovan to Mark Moody-Stuart: 14 April 1998
“Yet you are not prepared for the same information to be supplied, even on a confidential basis, to the people who actually own the company – your shareholders. Your decision to keep company members in the dark speaks absolute volumes. So much for the core principle of “openness”. When it comes to the crunch, covering-up a catalogue of misdeeds by Shell managers, despite incontrovertible evidence of flagrant breaches of the principles of honesty and integrity, apparently takes priority.”
Link to “Unloveable Shell, the goddess of oil” Guardian article mentioned in the correspondence (takes time to load but well worth the wait)
UNDERCOVER ACTIVITY AGAINST THE DONOVAN’S IN THE PERIOD WISEMAN IN CHARGE OF DEFENCE CASE
A number of sinister characters suddenly came on the scene in a short period of time, including an American gentleman who arrived from overseas and tracked down and interviewed our key witnesses, falsely claiming to be a journalist for The European newspaper. Another undercover agent under the name of Christopher Phillips had been caught red-handed illegally opening private mail at our offices. The homes of our solicitor, a key witness and our own home were all burglarised in the run up to the Smart Trial and related documents examined. Shell denied any association with the burglaries and the intimidation of our witnesses.
Copies of a selection of relevant self-explanatory correspondence published below.
Letter to John Donovan from Shell solicitors, DJ Freeman: 16 June 1998
John Donovan letter to Richard Wiseman: 23 June 1998
Richard Wiseman letter to John Donovan: 24 June 1998
Richard Wiseman letter to John Donovan: 1 July 1998
If, nevertheless, the police wish to obtain any further information from my clients or from anyone involved in enquiries on their behalf, including Mr Phillips, then, as has been said on several previous occasions, the fullest of co-operation will be given.
Letter from Richard Wiseman to John Donovan: 9 July 1998
The activities of Mr Phillips have, of course, been admitted.
Letter to John Donovan from Shell solicitors DJ Freeman: 11 August 1998(confirms internal investigation by Shell)
Letter to John Donovan from Shell solicitors DJ Freeman: 26 October 1998 (Confirms an internal investigation by Shell)
DEFENDING THE COMPANY’S GOOD NAME AND REPUTATION: Richard Wiseman article in OPDirect Magazine: November 1998
FUEL FOR THOUGHT
DEFENDING THE COMPANY’S GOOD NAME AND REPUTATION
There has recently been some publicity surrounding a writ issued against Shell UK by Mr John Donovan, director of a company called Don Marketing, who claims that his company invented the SMART loyalty programme and that he or his company should be compensated for its use. Shell UK is strongly defending the claim, having carefully investigated and discussed it with Mr Donovan and his solicitors. Mr Donovan has been making a number of unpleasant allegations in public and in the press, and has been handing out leaflets to staff.
Some Don Marketing Games from the 1980s
COPY OF INFORMATION PUBLISHED ON Don-Marketing.com and “Images File” webpage (with more images added in 2020)
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.
Picture of John Chambers and John DonovanJohn Donovan (right) and John Chambers at 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.
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.
Fast flowing Don: Marketing Magazine 16 February 1984
Shell Make Money full page advert: Daily Express 21 February 1984
Shell Make Money full page advert: Evening Standard 21 February 1984
Shell is back making money: Incentive Marketing and Sales Promotion March 1984
Anatomy of a Shell winner: Campaign Magazine 27 April 1984
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 Trek the 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.
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. The promotion ran on Shell forecourts in the UK and Ireland.