Royal Dutch Shell Group .com

Financial Times: Connections from politics to royalty

 

By Ian Bickerton in Amsterdam

Published: April 21 2004 5:00 | Last Updated: April 21 2004 5:00

 

There can be few international companies that boast quite the connections of the Royal Dutch part of Shell.

 

The oil giant bears the Royal prefix for good reason. The House of Orange is the best-known shareholder in the Dutch part of the group, although the size of its stake has been a source of media debate for years.

 

Last year, in what he said was an effort to set the record straight, Prince Bernhard, Queen Beatrix's father, wrote to Forbes magazine to say the family held only a modest stake, which the magazine estimated at being worth around $25,000 (13,950).

 

A cabinet spokesman and officials at the Dutch ministries of finance and economic affairs separately said there had been no contact between the government and the company "at any level" with regard to the current crisis or the issue of structural reform.

 

The crisis has barely registered in political circles, according to one senior politician. "There is a wave of corporate governance reform [in the Netherlands] but the Shell incidents have not had an impact on that," he said.

 

Annette Nijs swapped a management role with Shell to become Dutch state secretary for education in mid-2002 - a post she still holds.

 

Her more-than-ten-year career with the company and its subsidiaries spanned financial and commercial jobs in The Hague, London, Muscat, Houston and Manila. She worked for Shell finance, exploration and production, Shell Trading, Shell Marine Products and Shell International Oil Products.

 

Ms Nijs is understood to have had no involvement in investigations into the company's affairs. Her spokesman said she felt "no need to comment on any aspect of Royal Dutch/Shell".

 

Wim Kok, the former Dutch prime minister, joined the Royal Dutch supervisory board last year after leaving politics. He followed in the footsteps of Petrus de Jong, Dutch prime minister from 1967-71, who served on the same board in 1975.

 

Frits Bolkestein, European commissioner for internal markets, spent 16 years at Royal Dutch/Shell from 1960 to 1976. Wouter Bos, who leads PvdA, the Dutch social democrat party, worked for Royal Dutch/Shell in middle-management and policy-planning roles before moving into politics in 1998.

 

Mr Bos, whose left-wing political leanings led him to refuse to work for the company in South Africa or Nigeria, held jobs in Romania, Rotterdam, China, Hong Kong and London. "It was not the first place one would have expected to find a left-wing politician," he once told the FT.

 

Jacques Schraven, outgoing leader of VNO-CNV, the Dutch employers federation, is another former alumnus. As head of Royal Dutch/ Shell in the Netherlands in the 1980s, Mr Schraven endured the protests against investment in South Africa.

 

Hendrik Colijn, former Dutch prime minister, was a director of Bataafsche Petroleum Maatschappij, a Shell subsidiary, from 1914 to 1922.

 

A person with knowledge of the company said: "The nature of Shell is that most business decisions have a wide-ranging impact on society. That is due to the size of the company, its core business, its worldwide presence and therefore: its power. The recruitment process for management jobs traditionally focuses on getting people in who are able to relate the business to all these issues, who can handle contacts and negotiations with high-level government officials ... Shell managers [at higher levels] are recruited because they have a broad view on life, society, the world and business; and successful politicians should have the same."


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