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John Donovan, a co-founder of promotional games company Don Marketing: Photo taken in 2015.

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.

We agreed in an exchange of correspondence to share rights to Make Money and launched the promotion to award-winning spectacular success in 1983. It caught the imagination of the public and the news media.

We were treated like heroes by Shell and supplied Make Money and other promotional games to Shell on an international basis.

The mutually successful relationship ended in acrimony after an unscrupulous Shell executive was appointed in 1992. The fallout has lasted ever since, involving several bouts of litigation and various cloak and dagger interventions by Shell.

The most recent covert action was initiated on or around 22 July 2021, almost four decades after Shell first became our client. Read “Shell’s failed blundering attempt to kill my”

The most recent television coverage was in the Channel 4 TV controversial film documentary Joe Lycett vs The Oil Giant broadcast on 24 Oct 2021. View transcript at Joe Lycett vs The Oil Giant – John Donovan segment.

The screenshot below of John Donovan being interviewed by Joe Lycett about the sinister side of Shell 

There is a gallery at the end of some chapters which feature screenshots related to the content of the chapter. Some also contain news reports published about these events.

They provide an indication of the degree of media coverage of what was described in one article as a war (Times Diary), and in another as a public feud.

Most of the information herein is taken from the published eBook: John Donovan, Shell’s nightmare. The website version here has been expanded and updated, thereby also serving as a nostalgic archive.

It is a true account of extraordinary events involving one of the world’s largest and most unscrupulous companies: Royal Dutch Shell.

I contend that the overused David v Goliath analogy can be fairly applied to this epic tale.

*Don Marketing was founded by Donovan family members, Alfred, Bob and John and their chartered accountant friend of long-standing, Don Redhead. Alfred and Don are both sadly deceased and much missed by all who knew them.

Some news headlines about the litigation Shell would prefer to forget

Copyright Notice: All rights, including copyright and compilation in the content of web pages authored by John Donovan, are owned or controlled for these purposes by him. In accessing the said web pages, you agree that you may only download the content for your own personal non-commercial use. Except where expressly stated otherwise, you are not permitted to copy, broadcast, download, store (in any medium), transmit, show or play in public, adapt or change in any way the content of these web pages for any other purpose whatsoever without the prior written permission of John Donovan via the email address:

Roger Sotherton, a longtime Director of Don Marketing involved in all of Don Marketing promotional games for Shell around the world (sadly deceased in April 2023) and its sister non-profit websites,,,,,, and are owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia feature.