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Private Empire: ExxonMobil and American Power

Private Empire: ExxonMobil and American Power [Kindle Edition]

Steve Coll
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)

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Magisterial ... a revealing history of our time (Bill McKibben New York Review of Books)

Meticulously researched and elegantly written, it is likely to be the definitive work on its subject for many years to come. Steve Coll ... is honest about Exxon's strengths as well as its flaws, and presents both sides of the arguments with scrupulous even-handedness ... At every stop there are vivid anecdotes, sharp insights and telling details (Ed Crooks Financial Times)

Masterful ... Coll's in-depth reporting, buttressed by his anecdotal prose, make Private Empire a must-read ... [His] portrait of ExxonMobil is both riveting and appalling... Yet Private Empire is not so much an indictment as a fascinating look into American business and politics (San Francisco Chronicle)

Meticulous, multi-angled and valuable ... Coll's prose sweeps the earth like an Imax camera (Dwight Garner New York Times)

A thorough, sobering study of the pernicious consolidation of Big Oil ... jaw-dropping reading (Kirkus Reviews)

Product Description

Steve Coll's Private Empire is winner of the FT/GOLDMAN SACHS BUSINESS BOOK OF THE YEAR AWARD 2012. In this prize-winning book, the author of Ghost Wars and The Bin Ladens investigates the notoriously mysterious ExxonMobil Corporation and the secrets of the oil industry

In many of the nations where it operates, ExxonMobil has a greater sway than that of the US embassy, its annual revenues are larger than the total economic activity in most countries and in Washington it spends more on lobbying than any other corporation. Yet despite its outsized influence, it is to outsiders a black box.

Private Empire begins with the Exxon Valdez accident in 1989 and closes with the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Steve Coll's narrative spans the globe, taking readers to Moscow, impoverished African capitals, Indonesia and elsewhere as ExxonMobil carries out its activities against a backdrop of blackmail threats, kidnapping, civil wars, and high-stakes struggles at the Kremlin. In the US, Coll goes inside ExxonMobil's ruthless Washington lobbying offices and its corporate headquarters in Irving, Texas, where top executives oversee a bizarre corporate culture of discipline and secrecy.

Private Empire is the masterful result of Steve Coll's indefatigable reporting, from the halls of Congress to the oil-laden swamps of the Niger Delta; previously classified U.S. documents; heretofore unexamined court records; and many other sources.

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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Waste of time 7 Mar 2013
I agree wholeheartedly with the previous reviewer. This book might, just might, be appealing to those that know nothing of the oil industry but it is highly unoriginal and highly unrevealing for the rest of us. Is it really possible that one person out there in the big wide world might be surprised to learn that oil companies deal with governments? Besides the fact that states tend to own all the oil and gas reserves, which most voters tend to like, energy is near the top of the agenda for almost every Government on this planet. Don't waste your money on this one.
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4.0 out of 5 stars ExxonMobil - power and influence 13 Oct 2014
By Barry
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The book provides an excellent insight into one of the world’s leading multinationals (perhaps the leading multinational, depending on how and when measured). Steve Coll’s 624 pages is well put together and well researched - backed up by detailed notes.

Having worked in an advisory capacity with a number of smaller multinationals it is very interesting to see how this big player, ExxonMobil, has gone about its business - across lots of locations. These have included US, Russia, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Chad, Equatorial Guinea, Indonesia and Venezuela.

The period covered sees the company led by Lawrence G. Rawl, Lee R. Raymond and Rex Tillerson. The book works forward from th Exxon Valdez disaster in 1989. Raymond assumes control from 1993 and Tillerson from 2006. The bulk of the book is focused on Raymond’s reign.

The company is required to operate across a range of challenging environments - wherever there are oil or gas reserves of any significant volume. And there is significant risk for the company and the company’s personnel in operating in a number of these locations. However what is striking is the company’s approach to resourcing its teams in these locations - and backing them up at senior political level (be that in the country itself or at US Government and/or World Bank levels). Indeed the power and influence of the corporation is very clear, as evidenced by its reasonably easy access to Cheney, Bush, Putin etc - not to mention leaders in countries such as Chad, EG, etc.

We also see Raymond’s ascendancy and strong and dominating leadership. Eventually some of this probably backfires in dealing with global warming, Greenpeace and Wall Street. But there plenty of strengths in driving the company forward and managing ongoing difficult situations in multiple global locations.

All in all. a worthwhile read for anyone working in a multinational environment or looking for some insight into the oil and gas industry.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A subjective look at a coporate superpower 12 Oct 2014
Format:Kindle Edition
A genuinely fascinating book, though not for the reasons expected, as rather than come off as a critique of the corporation it presents it as it is: A very successful business that has to tackle MANY obstacles across its operations from oil spills, to kidnappings, to tantrum-prone dictators. This approach works for the book though as it allows for a variety of stories to be told in a variety of locations with a changing cast of characters.

It does suffer here and there from bogging itself down talking about lobbying groups however and at over 600 pages of small print, a pre-existing interest is pretty much required before reading, if so however it’s an excellent book.
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59 of 75 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing 2 Aug 2012
If you knew nothing about the oil business and international politics - then this might be a starter book for you. Otherwise, forget it. This is a sub-Vanity Fair stylistic compilation of themeless unconnected selected tales and vignettes involving Exxon Mobil and more specifically, chosen handfuls of its personnel. There is, barring passing comment, no serious or lengthy, or most importantly, integrated, analysis of Exxon and what it is about and how it may or may not be shaping global oil.

I say "Vanity Fair", as it is written, as sadly increasingly most such books are these days, in the journo-creates-atmosphere style by conveying "place" and "character" while pretending that the writer was there.

If text such as "It was a grey rainy November day when Jim "the shark" Macaulay got into his regulation Exxon hire car to drive...He was a long term Exxon employee widely held in high regard for his skills at..." appeals to you, then this book is for you. Otherwise - dreadful.

Have you ever noticed how in all these sorts of books ALL the staff introduced are always really really experienced, bright, perceptive, hard working, seem to have extraordinary skills that somehow no-one else has. NOBODY at management level is ever out of their depth, dumb, deceitful, slow, not very capable or bright, unwilling to take responsibility or make a decision, over-promoted, sycophantic or just "average"...

For sure given his reputation the author can get access to the organisation first hand and to senior management; he has conducted various interviews. His funding has allowed him to interview people in different countries. But all that has then happened is that these interviews have been dressed up and strung together.
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4.0 out of 5 stars sort of ok could be shorter 31 Oct 2013
By edward
Format:Kindle Edition
I am finding this book sort of ok but a bit long. It like the story of the oil company exconn lots of interesting things but lots of pages to get through it. As others have written prehaps if familar with oil industry this is not so great but for me very good interesting. Its just that its written cronological events stories of what happens is a very ineffectient way to get to the meet. Like reading a long story book, i prefare more intense books because i am a slow reader
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