Alex Ford

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  • Private Empire

  • ExxonMobil and American Power
  • By: Steve Coll
  • Narrated by: Malcolm Hillgartner
  • Length: 24 hrs and 16 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 568
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 474
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 470

Steve Coll investigates the largest and most powerful private corporation in the United States, revealing the true extent of its power. ExxonMobil’s annual revenues are larger than the economic activity in the great majority of countries. In many of the countries where it conducts business, ExxonMobil’s sway over politics and security is greater than that of the United States embassy. In Washington, ExxonMobil spends more money lobbying Congress and the White House than almost any other corporation. Yet despite its outsized influence, it is a black box.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Please no more accents!

  • By Zak on 07-24-12

Not Coll's Best

3 out of 5 stars
4 out of 5 stars
2 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 01-20-16

What did you like best about Private Empire? What did you like least?

Steve Coll is a fantastic writer and clearly takes no shortcuts in his research. I've read all his previous works (multiple times, actually) and each truly fascinating, memorable, and a pleasure to dive into. Not so much the case with Private Empire, however, as there is simply no "there, there." I have to assume that Coll formulated his theory about Exxon being this big bad corporate entity, started writing, and got too far along before realizing there wasn't really anything scandalous to be said. Anecdotes about Exxon's "obsession with safety" and commissioning of academic studies favorable to their business (a practice used by pretty much every company out there which has the money to do so) are treated as "revelations," made to seem more scandalous than they are. I suppose if you were to read/listen to this book in a judgmental tone it would have a greater impact, but otherwise don't expect more than a couple hundred pages of fluff and filler.

Would you ever listen to anything by Steve Coll again?

Yes, this is his one book that hasn't been truly excellent so I think he deserves another shot. I'm sure whatever he writes next will be great.

Which scene was your favorite?

The conservative culture, engendered by a top-down managerial approach, was interesting to learn about. The relationship between Lee Raymond and Dick Cheney is also fascinating.

What did you take away from Private Empire that you can apply to your work?

Some people view certain practices considered standard at companies as "evil," so be careful.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful