John Donovan has been involved with petrol retailing since the 1960’s.
He was the co-founder of a sales promotion company, Don Marketing, which supplied instant win games used on the forecourts of most brands, including BP, Esso (Exxon), Chevron, Conoco, Texaco and Fina.
He is, however, best known for his unique international relationship with Royal Dutch Shell stretching back decades.
A 30-minute video from the 1980's featuring promotional games devised by Don Marketing for Shell can be seen on YouTube. Google "Shell Promotional Games: Introduced by John Donovan". A promotion such as 'Shell StarTrek: The Game' in 1992 involved a budget of several million dollars and a distribution of 100 million "Every Card Can Win" game pieces.
The mutually successful relationship at that time was followed by over two decades of acrimony involving six High Court actions, one County Court case and most recently, proceedings brought by Shell via the World Intellectual Property Organisation in respect of the domain name RoyalDutchShellPlc.com. All of the court cases were settled by Shell. They all stemmed from alleged theft of intellectual property - ideas disclosed to Shell in strictest confidence.
John Donovan has become widely known as an expert source on Royal Dutch Shell with unprecedented access to Shell insiders. For the last decade, he has operated a non-profit website - royaldutchshellplc.com - focussed on Shell's activities. Shell lost its attempt to seize the domain name and only briefly succeeded in a separate attempt to close the site down.
The One World Trust, an NGO with Special Consultative Status to the UN and a close relationship with the UK Parliament, says that his website has played a watchdog function on the activities of Shell.
Extract from a One World Trust Newsletter:
"John Donovan's use of the website to blow the whistle on Shell's environmental abuses in the Sakhalin project exhibits the power an individual website can have in holding a global organisation to account."
The website has been used by many prominent third parties for various campaigning projects relating to Shell, including the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Friends of the Earth and The World Ecumenical Council for Corporate Responsibility.
John Donovan and his website have been mentioned in over one hundred news and magazine articles in relation to Shell and has been cited in almost forty books. He has been frequently quoted by Dow Jones Newswires, Reuters and many newspapers, including the Financial Times and The Wall Street Journal.
Parties seeking information about Shell - NGO's, investigators, government departments (including from the USA), journalists and lawyers, have all beaten a path to his door.
A TV documentary feature about John Donovan and his website has been broadcast in many countries, with a related article published in ten languages. A Russian government minister Oleg Mitvol was interviewed in Moscow and confirmed in the documentary the decisive role of Donovan in Shell losing its controlling stake in Sakhalin2, the then biggest energy project of its kind in the world.
No one knows more about Shell's past dark history in Nazi Germany and about current controversial projects, such as the Prelude FLNG gas project in Australia that the oil giant would prefer to remain out of the pubic gaze. He has also revealed how a chemicals division of Royal Dutch Shell used its own employees as guinea pigs in a long-term study of carcinogenic properties with special reference to the “side effects” of pesticides in humans.
Shell has responded to his activities by engaging in bouts of corporate espionage targeting Donovan and Shell employees. This has involved a global spying operation as reported by Reuters. Shell has also admitted in writing responsibility for undercover activity during an investigation of Mr Donovan by several agents. Shell declined to indicate how many agents were involved or what they were doing.
During the run up to a High Court Trial in which he was the Plaintiff and Shell the Defendant, Donovan was besieged by sinister undercover operations and a bombardment of threats.
His home and the home of his lawyer and the residence of a key witness were all burgled. Important documentary evidence to which Shell had failed to obtain access via a court application were tampered with (and probably copied).
As exposed in a subsequent related front page Sunday Times article, titled Shell directors have been directors, major shareholders and the ultimate spymasters of Hakluyt a corporate intelligence firm staffed by former MI6 and SAS officers. Shell is a long time client for its cloak and dagger services.
Its founder, a retired senior MI6 officer Christopher James, has denied any personal knowledge of the sinister activity targeting John Donovan and his late father, Alfred, but declined to categorically state that his spy firm was not involved. His carefully crafted letter drafted by the then chief lawyer of The Church Of England Sir Anthony Hammond (a Hakluyt director), was issued in typically murky circumstances. It led to related letters being sent on behalf of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and The Archbishop of Canterbury.
The remarkable evidence is all provided in his book “John Donovan, Shell’s nightmare.”
Mr Donovan, a long-time Shell shareholder, is 69 and lives in Colchester England.