Join getAbstract to access the summary!

Private Empire

Join getAbstract to access the summary!

Private Empire

ExxonMobil and American Power

Penguin Press,

15 min read
10 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

ExxonMobil is a “private empire”: wealthy, global and geopolitically powerful.

auto-generated audio
auto-generated audio

Editorial Rating



  • Comprehensive
  • Background


ExxonMobil is a singular corporation. One of America’s most profitable companies year after year, the energy giant generates immense revenues from its oil and gas products, as well as almost constant publicity – both good and bad – about its global activities. Yet the public knows little about what really goes on inside ExxonMobil, whose top executives work in offices known as the “God Pod” in corporate headquarters nicknamed the “Death Star.” From its vast size to its huge earnings and global operations, everything about ExxonMobil is imposing, even intimidating. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Steve Coll’s definitive study – a factual compendium complete with statistics and insider interviews – is sure to become the standard reference work on a multinational corporation with enormous influence on US and global geopolitics. getAbstract recommends Coll’s reportorial achievement and informed analysis of an American colossus to executives, business historians and anyone interested in energy and finance.


Big, Big, Big Oil

At Standard Oil’s pinnacle early in the 20th century, it monopolized 90% of the US oil market as the world’s original “integrated” oil firm. Energized by investigative reporter Ida Tarbell’s muckraking The History of the Standard Oil Company, populists worked overtime to encourage and convince the government to break up John D. Rockefeller’s massive corporation.

In response, in 1911, the US Supreme Court mandated the dissolution of Standard Oil. The biggest “baby Standard” to emerge was Standard Oil of New Jersey. For decades, it sold its products under the names Esso, Enco and Humble Oil. In 1973, Standard Oil of New Jersey became Exxon, soon to be the US’s largest oil company. By 1989, it was double the size of Mobil Oil, another baby Standard that became America’s second largest oil company.

Despite its various name and organizational changes, Exxon continued to exemplify the Rockefeller tradition of “discipline, rigor, technological research and unsentimental competition.” For years, “Exxon was America’s energy policy” due to its remarkable size, power, global footprint and industry dominance.

Lee R. Raymond

From 1993...

About the Author

Steve Coll, formerly The Washington Post’s managing editor, is the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Ghost Wars. He also writes for The New Yorker.

Comment on this summary