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Private Empire: ExxonMobil and American Power [Kindle Edition]

Steve Coll
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (145 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $18.00
Kindle Price: $13.04
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Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC

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Book Description

An “extraordinary” and “monumental” exposé of Big Oil from two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Steve Coll (The Washington Post)

In this, the first hard-hitting examination of ExxonMobil—the largest and most powerful private corporation in the United States—Steve Coll reveals the true extent of its power. Private Empire pulls back the curtain, tracking the corporation’s recent history and its central role on the world stage, beginning with the Exxon Valdez accident in 1989 and leading to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. The action spans the globe—featuring kidnapping cases, civil wars, and high-stakes struggles at the Kremlin—and the narrative is driven by larger-than-life characters, including corporate legend Lee “Iron Ass” Raymond, ExxonMobil’s chief executive until 2005. A penetrating, news-breaking study, Private Empire is a defining portrait of Big Oil in American politics and foreign policy.

Editorial Reviews

From Bookforum

Coll employs language that’s plain, clear, and free of accusation. Though some of the details recounted across the sprawling narrative of Private Empire are outrageous, the reporting is deep and fair. — Coral Davenport


 “ExxonMobil has met its match in Coll, an elegant writer and dogged reporter… extraordinary… monumental.” --THE WASHINGTON POST

Fascinating… Private Empire is a book meticulously prepared as if for trial, a lawyerly accumulation of information that lets the facts speak for themselves… a compelling and elucidatory work.” --BLOOMBERG

Private Empire is meticulous, multi-angled and valuable… Mr. Coll’s prose sweeps the earth like an Imax camera.”
— Dwight Garner, THE NEW YORK TIMES

"ExxonMobil has cut a ruthless path through the Age of Oil. Yet intense secrecy has kept one of the world's largest companies a mystery, until now. Private Empire: ExxonMobil and American Power is a masterful study of Big Oil's biggest player… Coll's in-depth reporting, buttressed by his anecdotal prose, make Private Empire a must-read. Consider Private Empire a sequel of sorts to The Prize, Daniel Yergin's Pulitzer-winning history of the oil industry… Coll's 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. With each chapter as forceful as a New Yorker article, the book abounds in Dickensian characters.”

"Coll makes clear in his magisterial account that Exxon is mighty almost beyond imagining, producing more profit than any American company in the history of profit, the ultimate corporation in 'an era of corporate ascendancy.' This history of its last two decades is therefore a revealing history of our time, a chronicle of the intersection between energy and politics."

"Groundbreaking... Masterful as a corporate portrait, Private Empire gushes with narrative."

Product Details

  • File Size: 1666 KB
  • Print Length: 700 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1594203350
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (May 1, 2012)
  • Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0064W5BPM
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #77,954 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
211 of 223 people found the following review helpful
As a reader you can never really explain it, but a truly great author can make anything come alive while others will put you to sleep. Steve Coll is a Pulitzer Prize winner author of Ghost Wars - the Secret History of the CIA, which is another book you just can't put down. Private Empire is special, and the title is so appropriate, a company that has been in business for over a 100 years. It has seen 19 American Presidents come and go, and yet it remains the dominant energy company in the world, and this book covers the whole story.

There is very little devoted to the early history of the company. As we all probably know John D. Rockefeller created the Standard Oil Trust and when it was broken up by the Trust Busters in the early 20th century, one of the spin-offs was the early ancestor to what is now Exxon which eventually combined with Mobil Oil to form ExxonMobil. Rockefeller controlled 14% of the American economy at one point, and oil has remained our dominant energy source ever since.

What a book, what a story for Exxon is the tale of 20th century America and our country's rise to both prominence and dominance in the world both politically and economically. A company so powerful that it considers itself in many ways a state within a state with an internal security force the equivalent of the Secret Service that guards our President. And why not, Exxon has recruited the best of the retired Secret Service agents to develop, install, and maintain a security shield around this company's behavior and its employees.

The book devotes a chapter to the kidnapping and death of Exxon executive Sidney Reso and how CEO Lee Raymond completely revamped the entire company to ensure that it would not happen again.
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45 of 47 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Nuanced Look at ExxonMobil May 12, 2012
A Pulitzer Prize winning New Yorker author writes a vast book about the largest corporation in the United States. You can picture the book, you say. Long on research, including large numbers of interviews with people who refuse to be quoted by name? Yes. Engaging distillation of technical information into a readily understood summary? Yes. Characters and scenes drawn with a cinematic vividness? Yes. Revelations that require the reader to rethink his or her basic understanding of the book's subject? Well no.

I spent most of the book's 700 pages waiting for The Revelation. The Secret. The...well, anything. This is certainly more the fault of my expectations than any deficiency in the book. But it is odd that the author would have spent such a huge amount of time and energy writing such a detailed book about two decades of ExxonMobil corporate history without a central theme. Maybe I have simply read too many books about the oil industry and spend too much of life reading business newspapers and magazines, but the general tale told in this book is very well known. What is less well known is the details of the various strands of the story, and those strands are told with exquisite detail, well supported by copious footnotes, even though many (most?) of the cited interviews fail to name the individuals cited.

The book starts crisply with a factual description of the hours leading to the Exxon Valdez disaster and ends two decades later with BP's Deepwater Horizon fiasco. In between we are given an inside look at the corporate culture and operating environment of ExxonMobil. The book consists almost entirely of dozens of intimate scenes.
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62 of 69 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well Written, Very Interesting May 3, 2012
This was a door stopper of a book. I haven't had a real hefty book for a bit and it was a real delight to sit and hold a real solid book again. And what a book it was. Starting with the the Exxon Valdez spill and book-ending with the Deepwater Horizon disaster Private Empire details the arrogance that is ExxonMobil.

Mr. Coll's writing style is easy even when explaining oil extraction methods or the geopolitics of oil and natural gas rights. It reads almost like a suspense novel except that it's all true. And that is what makes it so scary. I found myself turning page after page reeling at my naivete. I think I want to go back to being uninformed. It's a happier state of mind.

Mr. Coll's research for the book was quite extensive and the book is heavily footnoted. He conducted over 400 interviews with people great and small and he weaves what they shared together with facts gathered from all over the world to take the reader on a ride from oil fields to the offices of political power in this country and beyond. It was utterly fascinating to get a peak inside the Borg like culture of Exxon. Tow the company line or find another job.

I have not enjoyed a non fiction book this much in a long, long time. I just wish I wasn't so surprised at what I learned.
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75 of 94 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Gossip rather than facts June 2, 2012
As described by more positive reviews, this book offers an entertaining read of different recent historical aspects of XOM. Those readers however who, like myself, are familiar with the oil industry, may be annoyed with the quite anecdotal nature of the whole book and it's lack of real substance. The author is clearly not an industry expert, rather more like a 'celebrity news' reporter.

To me the book lacks a central thesis that is founded on a structered story line. Instead interesting anecdotes are described and not always as complete as I would have liked to see them. The different aspects are in themselves entertaining to read, e.g. Exxon Valdez, kidnappings etc., but don't really tell you anything about XOM's inner workings, other than that it is a large company in an interesting industry working in interesting geographical locations; something everybody probably already understands. To me it was as if the author had uncovered a Wikileaks file on XOM and compounded some stories 'uncovering' XOM's seemingly dark motives.
Similar to Wikileaks though you may conclude that XOM is run with intelligence and common sense and yes, due to the nature of it's business, is sometimes confronted with interesting and challenging situations.

I would compare reading this book to reading celebrity gossip. If you're more interested in a factually astute book I would recommend The Prize by Daniel Yergin on the history of the oil industry in general and it's significant impact on politics and history - also very entertaining to read by the way.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Published 2 hours ago by Francis X. Simoes
4.0 out of 5 stars The History of XOM
Excellent read and a fascinating history of one of the largest corporations in America.
Published 7 days ago by John Q
5.0 out of 5 stars and an easy read.
Everything you ever wanted to know about big oil, in one book. Very detailed and informative, and an easy read.
Published 7 days ago by Matt O'Neill
4.0 out of 5 stars Objective look at the oil industry through the dealings of Exxon Mobil
If you want to know about Exxon Mobil and the oil industry in general, you could do a lot worse than this well-written and researched book. Mr. Read more
Published 1 month ago by T. ORourke
4.0 out of 5 stars Coll is a great writier. Read his book Ghost Wars to understand ...
Coll is a great writier. Read his book Ghost Wars to understand the folly of a war in Afghanistan. Especially one run by spooks.
Published 1 month ago by cinejevu
5.0 out of 5 stars Exceptional book.
Excellent book with an extremely fair portrayal of ExxonMobile. They don't pull their punches but they also highlight the internal culture that was pushed aggressively toward... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Ben
5.0 out of 5 stars Terrific corporate biography - well-researched with insights into...
The book divides into Exxon under Lee Raymond and Exxon under Ray Tillerson, with the characters of the two CEOs compared and contrasted. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Angela M. Hey
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
As an exxonmobil annuitant, I found it very educational and accurate. The executoves mentioned were very accurately portrayed. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Michael Adams
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating!
This is a fascinating, educational book that provides glimpses into selected notable episodes during a 21-year period in the life of oil giant Exxon Mobil Corporation, starting... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Graybeard
3.0 out of 5 stars I expected shocking information showing the dark side of the ...
I expected shocking information showing the dark side of the company, but nothing of that happened...fortunatelly. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Tomas Krejza
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More About the Author

Steve Coll is a writer for The New Yorker and author of the Pulitzer Prize- winning Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001. He is president of the New America Foundation, a public policy institute in Washington, D.C. Previously he served, for more than twenty years, as a reporter, foreign correspondent, and ultimately as managing editor of The Washington Post. He is also the author of On the Grand Trunk Road, The Deal of the Century, and The Taking of Getty Oil. Coll received a 1990 Pulitzer Prize for explanatory journalism and the 2001 Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award for outstanding international print reporting and the 2000 Overseas Press Club Award for best magazine reporting from abroad. Ghost Wars, published in 2004, received the Pulitzer for general nonfiction and the Arthur Ross award for the best book on international affairs.


Topic From this Discussion
Seriously? $20 for the Kindle version of this book?
Another idea being priced out of the market. Used books with shipping are sometimes cheaper but with increasing kindle prices they almost even out.except for the convenience of not having a pile of books it doesn't help my wallet in the least.
Aug 10, 2012 by Gary A. McConn |  See all 2 posts
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