Two Years Later, the Book (or Chapter, Really) on That ExxonMobil Protest
Yesterday best-selling author David Sirota was pre-selling his forthcoming book The Uprising: An Unauthorized Tour of the Populist Revolt Scaring Wall Street and Washington over on The Huffington Post. And, he wrote, some of his new tome is set in Dallas -- as in, "Among other places, my travels took me to ... Dallas to join shareholder activists planning resolutions at the ExxonMobil stockholder meeting." So I e-mailed Sirota to ask him just how much of the shindig wound up in the book.
Turns out, out of 10 chapters, the May 31, 2006, meeting at the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center takes up an entire chapter all by its lonesome. During a phone conversation with Unfair Park, Sirota says he actually spent a couple of days in Dallas with the shareholder activists who were pushing for resolutions limiting greenhouse gas emissions, and what he saw during his trip was "substantial" enough to merit a chapter. "It is actually one of my favorite chapters in the whole book," Sirota says.
And it didn't hurt that he wound up accidentally chatting up ExxonMobil Corporation's chairman and CEO, Wichita Falls native son Rex Tillerson.
"It was accidental," he says. "I was busy filling my sack with ExxonMobil freebies -- it was like FAO Schwarz -- and this greased-back head of hair with a body uard came over to introduce himself. It was Tillerson, and he was very politician-y -- the man bears a striking resemblance to James Brolin, as I say in the book. It was interesting, because everyone was anticipating how he'd be. They got used to Lee Raymond as being crusty and making a good target for a spectacle, and Tillerson was a lot smoother. We shook hands, I introduced myself, which was odd, since I was there on an unauthorized basis -- I was snuck in there by a shareholder activist."
And did he mind, once he found out?
"Not exactly," Sirota says. "I told him I was a writer with a shareholder activist, and he didn't seem fazed by it. The crowd was interesting too. I was sitting next to a couple of guys who were ExxonMobil loyalists with thick Texas accents, and they were annoyed at every shareholder resolution brought up, especially the ones having to do with greenhouse gases."
Other revelations during his stay in Dallas: "I couldn't believe the Mobil sign is on the street signs downtown. They always say oil is big in Dallas, but I didn't know it was ingrained down to the street-sign level."
And: "ExxonMobil HQ doesn't advertise itself -- if you didn't know where it was, you'd never know what it was. One of the activists said to me, 'Probably not an accident that ExxonMobil doesn't advertise its headquarters, because it's not exactly the most popular company amongst people who've been just bilked at the gas pump.'"
The Uprising: An Unauthorized Tour of the Populist Revolt Scaring Wall Street and Washington will be published May 27. --Robert Wilonsky