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From the bestselling coauthor of The Money and the Power (which the Los Angeles Times called “one of the most important nonfiction books published in a half century”)—the inside story of the Bechtel family and the empire they’ve controlled since the construction of the Hoover Dam. The tale of the Bechtel family dynasty is a classic American business story. It begins with Wa From the bestselling coauthor of The Money and the Power (which the Los Angeles Times called “one of the most important nonfiction books published in a half century”)—the inside story of the Bechtel family and the empire they’ve controlled since the construction of the Hoover Dam. The tale of the Bechtel family dynasty is a classic American business story. It begins with Warren A. “Dad” Bechtel, who led a consortium that constructed the Hoover Dam. From that auspicious start, the family and its eponymous company would go on to “build the world,” from the construction of airports in Hong Kong and Doha, to pipelines and tunnels in Alaska and Europe, to mining and energy operations around the globe. Today Bechtel is one of the largest privately held corporations in the world, enriched and empowered by a long history of government contracts and the privatization of public works, made possible by an unprecedented revolving door between its San Francisco headquarters and Washington. Bechtel executives John McCone, Caspar Weinberger, and George P. Shultz segued from leadership at the company to positions as Director of the CIA, Secretary of Defense, and Secretary of State, respectively. Like all stories of empire building, the rise of Bechtel presents a complex and riveting narrative. In The Profiteers, Sally Denton, whom The New York Times called “a wonderful writer,” exposes Bechtel’s secret world and one of the biggest business and political stories of our time.


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From the bestselling coauthor of The Money and the Power (which the Los Angeles Times called “one of the most important nonfiction books published in a half century”)—the inside story of the Bechtel family and the empire they’ve controlled since the construction of the Hoover Dam. The tale of the Bechtel family dynasty is a classic American business story. It begins with Wa From the bestselling coauthor of The Money and the Power (which the Los Angeles Times called “one of the most important nonfiction books published in a half century”)—the inside story of the Bechtel family and the empire they’ve controlled since the construction of the Hoover Dam. The tale of the Bechtel family dynasty is a classic American business story. It begins with Warren A. “Dad” Bechtel, who led a consortium that constructed the Hoover Dam. From that auspicious start, the family and its eponymous company would go on to “build the world,” from the construction of airports in Hong Kong and Doha, to pipelines and tunnels in Alaska and Europe, to mining and energy operations around the globe. Today Bechtel is one of the largest privately held corporations in the world, enriched and empowered by a long history of government contracts and the privatization of public works, made possible by an unprecedented revolving door between its San Francisco headquarters and Washington. Bechtel executives John McCone, Caspar Weinberger, and George P. Shultz segued from leadership at the company to positions as Director of the CIA, Secretary of Defense, and Secretary of State, respectively. Like all stories of empire building, the rise of Bechtel presents a complex and riveting narrative. In The Profiteers, Sally Denton, whom The New York Times called “a wonderful writer,” exposes Bechtel’s secret world and one of the biggest business and political stories of our time.

30 review for The Profiteers: Bechtel and the Men Who Built the World

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jason

    "Let me explain to you how this works: you see, the corporations finance Team America, and then Team America goes out... and the corporations sit there in their... in their corporation buildings, and... and, and see, they're all corporation-y... and they make money." --creepy Tim Robbins puppet (Team America: World Police) It's tempting to laugh at the cliché of progressive antigovernment rhetoric: "It's all about the corporations, man, and the oil. It's all about the oil." It's evidently all tru "Let me explain to you how this works: you see, the corporations finance Team America, and then Team America goes out... and the corporations sit there in their... in their corporation buildings, and... and, and see, they're all corporation-y... and they make money." --creepy Tim Robbins puppet (Team America: World Police) It's tempting to laugh at the cliché of progressive antigovernment rhetoric: "It's all about the corporations, man, and the oil. It's all about the oil." It's evidently all true though, and this book, The Profiteers is the most articulate and comprehensive examination of it I've seen in some time. Consider it almost a companion piece to Joel Bakan's excellent book/documentary film The Corporation but focused on the ultimate embodiment of Bakan's ideas: nefarious multinational nation builder The Bechtel Group. Through her biography of Bechtel's various executives--family dynasty patriarchs as well as the revolving door of neocon bureaucrats who moved back and forth between Bechtel and the US government--Denton highlights virtually all the major events in the last century of US history from WWII and the Cold War to the present day Middle East debacle and repeatedly shows Bechtel lurking in the periphery like Mick Jagger in "Sympathy for the Devil" exploiting, manipulating and, of course, getting disgustingly rich. This seemingly is the true nature of evil, not outright brutality but conniving, colluding conspiracy. Beyond a history of a company or a biography of its leaders, the book is a clear polemic with an axe to grind against Bechtel for its corruption, and Denton persuasively links the company to coups d'etat in Latin America and the Middle East, to facilitating the manufacturing of nuclear and chemical weapons, to bilking the US tax payers by driving up costs on its no-bid contracts it received through nepotism, and, of course, to having its hands dirty in every impeachable scandal of the Reagan years. The book is designed to evoke anger, and it does its job well. Denton's not pretending to be subjective here, and, more than anything else, the book is a critique of free market capitalism as the author shows how time and again the Bechtel Group owed its success to government contracts with taxpayer money, essentially to Roosevelt-esque New Deal-ish big government support antithetical to its stated Milton Friedman neoconservative values. Oh yes, the Bechtels are evidently hypocrites in addition to being war profiteers and disaster capitalist opportunists. To be fair, Denton may take some liberty. Some readers may argue that her connections are sometimes tenuous and that specific claims might be framed or exaggerated to be as devastating as possible. Her anticapitalist stance is certainly unmistakable. It's hard to imagine, however, that her larger conclusions are untrue. And, more than anything, it's clear from reading The Profiteers that greater transparency is needed in how public dollars are being used in the private sector. The image that begins the book of Team Bechtel having taken control of Baghdad Palace--freshly vacated by the Iraqi dictator Bechtel more or less created and supported--and using it as ground zero for a series of tax payer funded projects it would profit from yet ultimately leave unfinished is both damning and irrefutable. I hope people will read this and look beyond the silly partisan political talking points that dominate contemporary discourse and towards more significant issues of transparency and accountability in the public and private sectors.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Lori L (She Treads Softly)

    The Profiteers: Bechtel and the Men Who Built the World by Sally Denton is a highly recommended corporate/social/political account of the start and the growth of the global megacompany the Bechtel Corporation. This is a biography of the privately owned Bechtel Company and the family who founded it. Originally founded in 1898 "Bechtel grew from a scrappy Nevada road-grading operation at the dawn of the twentieth century to the world's largest construction company." Bechtel prides itself as the co The Profiteers: Bechtel and the Men Who Built the World by Sally Denton is a highly recommended corporate/social/political account of the start and the growth of the global megacompany the Bechtel Corporation. This is a biography of the privately owned Bechtel Company and the family who founded it. Originally founded in 1898 "Bechtel grew from a scrappy Nevada road-grading operation at the dawn of the twentieth century to the world's largest construction company." Bechtel prides itself as the company that can "build anything, any place, any time." Their ability to tackle seemingly impossible projects in inhospitable locations and forbidding landscapes began when they constructed the Hoover Dam. Through five generations they have shown both incredible technological ingenuity and major industry innovations. From the Hoover Dam to projects in the Mojave Desert to the Persian Gulf, Bechtel has tackled the big, impossible projects for years. They have handled the Channel Tunnel, and the Big Dig. They have to constructed airports, power plants, and entire cities. Bechtel carted away the wreckage of the World Trade Center and rebuilt Iraq. They have harnessed the planet's natural resources, including hydroelectric, oil, coal, water, nuclear power, natural gas, and geothermal power. Denton lays down a foundation for the combination of influence peddling combined with a base corporate craving for power by Bechtel. Rather than a completely impartial fact-based account very occasionally Denton's arguments for Bechtel's control over Washington become a bit too much of a stretch and aren't backed by absolute tenable connections. In a few cases the narrative veers into verbal machinations that seem to indicate a personal loyalty to political party connections and the motive of individuals has been assumed to be unpropitious. However, clearly there are enough connections, and certain arguments are based by enough facts to raise concerns. It is alarming to read the account of the number of individuals in government who have ties to the Bechtel Company and have worked for them while still in government over the years. Denton explores the strong connections of the company to the government and how they have been "inextricably enmeshed" in U.S. foreign policy for seven decades. Much of their work involves government contracts. Denton outlines their influence peddling through their government connections. While no one at Bechtel cooperated with Denton, they did deny any influence peddling. The narrative also includes information about the Jonathan Pollard espionage case. Pollard passed classified information to Israel about neighboring Middle Eastern countries and received what many people think was an overly harsh sentence. Several Bechtel executives/Washington insiders may have been involved in his punitive sentence. (Or it could be simple the sentence was harsh because Pollard was passing intelligence information to another country.) This is very well written and researched and should be enjoyed by anyone who enjoys contemporary U.S. history, and political science. Denton includes extensive notes, bibliography, and an index. Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of Simon & Schuster for review purposes. http://shetreadssoftly.blogspot.com/2...

  3. 5 out of 5

    Olivia

    This is the kind of journalism that turns people away from investigative journalism. Don’t believe me? Let’s look at a few quick numbers: on Goodreads on 212 people rated this book and only 37 took the time to review. 311 heavy pages alleging some of the most wide-scale cronyism in American history and only about 250 people made it known that they read this book. Let’s start at the beginning. Have you heard of the Bechtel Corporation? Me neither. The cover of the book indicates that these are th This is the kind of journalism that turns people away from investigative journalism. Don’t believe me? Let’s look at a few quick numbers: on Goodreads on 212 people rated this book and only 37 took the time to review. 311 heavy pages alleging some of the most wide-scale cronyism in American history and only about 250 people made it known that they read this book. Let’s start at the beginning. Have you heard of the Bechtel Corporation? Me neither. The cover of the book indicates that these are the men who “built the world” which seems like a tall task for a company I’ve never heard of. So, as an avid reader of all things non-fiction, I was looking forward to learning all about an industry and a company that presumably has a major impact on global infrastructure. In retrospect I should’ve set the book down and backed away. But I’m here typing this because I didn’t back away and now I can tell you that Bechtel did “build the world” (and possibly ripped the taxpayer off in the process) and that’s just about all you’ll glean from this exhausting read. Ok allow me to use an analogy. Have you ever found something out that, in the moment, shocked you and made you feel like you had to tell someone immediately but when you started frantically telling that person the story it didn’t seem as astonishing and their reaction was tepid at best? That situation is the structure of this book. Denton came across a seemingly untold story and was so anxious to tell it that the impact of the revelation was severely diluted. Ok so back to the book, here’s what you need to know: Bechtel Corporation is a large-scale private engineering and construction company that has been involved with virtually every modern infrastructure project, specifically those financed and awarded through lucrative government contracts. (You can google them and read all about their work, from the Hoover Dam, to the Chunnel, to the Big Dig and the Chernobyl clean-up project, they’ve been involved with some world-changing projects). From Hoover to Obama (the then-current administration) Bechtel has been a constant presence in Washington, exploiting a high-profile revolving door between the Bechtel boardroom and the highest levels of American government. Corruption and cronyism? Yeah, totally. So now you’re wondering what companies Bechtel edged out to win all these contracts (because after all, no matter what you’d like to believe, Bechtel is far from the only infrastructure and defense contractor) and how the practices of other companies differ from the alleged corruption of Bechtel. Well, I’d like to know that too. Instead, Denton strings together example after example after example of Bechtel winning some major contract from *insert administration here* and then going on to exploit the government and the taxpayer for excessive profit. Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t think that what is going on between Washington and Bechtel is okay but what I am saying is that Denton does not finish the work, she doesn’t explain the reader what alternatives exist. Here is a better structure, give the reader a few really impactful examples of cronyism and corruption then go on to explain who the alternative contractors are (as far as I know Bechtel is the only company capable of taking on projects of this scale), how we can push for more responsible spending and behavior in both the private and public sector, and conclude with thoughts on additional research that should be done into misappropriation of taxpayer money in infrastructure and energy, cronyism between public and private interests, and institutionalized corruption. But, instead, Denton only did half the work. She just ranted and raved about Bechtel making money. Ok, so I think to myself, “maybe I can still learn something here.” Let’s go back to numbers. Bechtel is only the 8th largest private company in the US (beaten out by household names including two grocery stores - Albertsons and Publix...you have to sell a lot of cereal to outpace the revenue you’d expect from a company that virtually built the modern world). Their modest market position from a financial perspective begs one to consider if Bechtel has actually been a valuable tool rather than simply a profit-hungry tyrant. I’m not saying that is necessarily the right answer but I am saying this book doesn’t give you the tools to answer that question. You’d be better off typing Bechtel into Google and doing some reading yourself, you can actually learn a lot about them, turns out they’re not nearly as secretive as Denton would lead you to believe (and a gentle reminder that private companies are not required to report their financials so when you can’t find those don’t panic, you can’t find them for your friendly neighborhood grocer either).

  4. 5 out of 5

    Bill

    I saw this at my local library and broke my imposed rule of not checking out books (i have a long standing habit of forgetting to return them). This is a workmanlike accounting of a highly secretive company. It is of interest to me because I worked for this outfit for almost ten years. That equates to about 50 years of working at a normal company. They paid me overtime, and I made enough to buy my first house, so I owe them that much. Bechtel is a privately held engineering and construction compa I saw this at my local library and broke my imposed rule of not checking out books (i have a long standing habit of forgetting to return them). This is a workmanlike accounting of a highly secretive company. It is of interest to me because I worked for this outfit for almost ten years. That equates to about 50 years of working at a normal company. They paid me overtime, and I made enough to buy my first house, so I owe them that much. Bechtel is a privately held engineering and construction company that has been run by San Francisco's Bechtel family since 1898. I worked at a nuclear plant Bechtel built where, as the author notes is typical of Bechtel, they were paid by their client on a "cost plus" basis. That is, what ever over runs occurred, Bechtel was guaranteed a set margin. Needless to say, the project went way over budget. "The Profiteers" shows how Bechtel management mastered glad handing on a cosmic scale. Their senior ranks were a rotating cadre of political hacks, including Caspar Weinnberger, George Schultz and so on into the Bush (Sr & Jr) and Clinton regimes. I came away from reading this nauseated at the institutional corruption that America just seems to accept without question. As a reportage, the book is pretty good. There is a lot of information that the author covers from the first Gulf War to now that has not been presented to general public. Apparently Bechtel was a big supporter of Saddam Hussein up to his invasion of Iraq. Then they were be chiefest of war profiteers when the time came to rebuild Iraq. Well worth reading for anyone interested in the true nature of globalization and the enrichment of the "1 percent."

  5. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

    Look, Kylie was not wrong when she said this was the year of Realizing Things. Maybe I'm naive, but I was surprised by the extent of cronyism Denton alleges, and frankly a little impressed by Bechtel's boldness. Good fodder for future arguments with my libertarian friends

  6. 5 out of 5

    Mal Warwick

    When F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote “the very rich are different from you and me,” he was referring to their attitudes and beliefs, not to the way they conduct themselves in business or politics. But he might very well have gone on to observe that great wealth carries with it considerable power that enables the very rich to have their way no matter how badly they act. In The Profiteers: Bechtel and the Men Who Built the World, Sally Denton illustrates just how much power the world’s largest construct When F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote “the very rich are different from you and me,” he was referring to their attitudes and beliefs, not to the way they conduct themselves in business or politics. But he might very well have gone on to observe that great wealth carries with it considerable power that enables the very rich to have their way no matter how badly they act. In The Profiteers: Bechtel and the Men Who Built the World, Sally Denton illustrates just how much power the world’s largest construction firm has wielded both in business and in politics, proving itself virtually untouchable by the law. The colossus that is Bechtel Bechtel is a privately owned global company headquartered in San Francisco. In 2015, the company ranked #5 on the Forbes list of America’s largest private companies, with annual revenue of $37 billion. Like the Koch Brothers’ family firm, Koch Industries (#2 on the Forbes list), Bechtel operates outside the scrutiny of financial regulators, so what it says about itself is often difficult to confirm. The firm advertises itself on its web site as having 55,400 employees who have completed 25,000 projects in 160 countries on 7 continents. All that may be true, or at least within reasonable range of the truth. But, as Denton demonstrates in her eye-opening study, much of what the notoriously secretive company says about its history and the way it conducts its affairs is highly questionable. A fifth-generation member of the family, Brendan Bechtel, now serves as President and Chief Operating Officer. (An outsider is CEO.) The company traces its beginning to 1898 when Brendan’s great-great grandfather, Warren Bechtel, began constructing railroads in the Oklahoma Territory with a team of mules. However, the company didn’t rise to national prominence until the Great Depression, when it was one of the so-called Six Companies (twelve, in reality) in the consortium that built the gargantuan Hoover Dam. In World War II, without prior experience in shipbuilding, Bechtel’s shipyards turned out 560 ships under a U.S. government contract, earning enormous profits. But Bechtel didn’t embark on a truly global course and set the stage for raking in billions of dollars in profits until Brendan’s grandfather, Steven D. Bechtel, Jr., took up the reins in 1960 and recruited John A. McCone as a virtual partner. Bechtel and McCone collaborated in inventing two new business concepts: the “turnkey” project and the now-notorious device of “cost-plus” government contracts. The latter helped to make both of them fabulously rich once the floodgates opened with the inauguration of Richard Nixon as President in 1969. The arrangement guaranteed that the company would realize a profit — and provided an incentive for cost overruns, since its profit was calculated as a percentage of the total cost! (After working for and with Steve Bechtel, McCone shifted to a career in government, which culminated with his appointment in 1961 as CIA Director. Over several decades in government service, McCone frequently used his influence in support of his former company: apparently, he continued to hold a share of ownership.) Conservative politics in the light of reality From its earliest days, the senior leadership of Bechtel has favored right-wing politics, inveighing against “communism” and government regulation. Each successive generation of Bechtels has “advocated a consolidated, free-wheeling capitalistic economy unrestrained by government oversight or taxation.” Astonishingly, on one occasion, writing in the journal of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Steve Jr. claimed that “the U.S. government has not had a major role in the success of our business.” In reality, however, as Denton emphasizes, “the Bechtel family owes its entire fortune to the US government.” Bechtel was built and continues to flourish on the basis of enormous government contracts. Because the firm is private, there is no way to learn how much of its business comes from government agencies, both domestic and foreign. However, given the spectacular size of nearly all the projects it manages, government funding must figure in the overwhelming majority. Every one of its signature projects was a multi-billion-dollar undertaking: the Hoover Dam, shipbuilding in World War II, the Trans-Arabian Pipeline, the Bay Area’s BART system, the city of Jubail in Saudi Arabia, the “Chunnel” under the English Channel, Boston’s Big Dig, 35,000 trailers after Hurricane Katrina, the Hong Kong airport, the US Embassy in Baghdad (the world’s largest), rebuilding Iraq’s infrastructure, and managing the U.S. nuclear arsenal and national nuclear research labs. These and many other Bechtel jobs were built with billions in government funds. In the 1940s, Bechtel became enmeshed in overseas US intelligence operations. “The company so mirrored the CIA by participating in intelligence gathering and providing cover to CIA agents,” Denton writes, “that it was widely considered a government surrogate, if not a full-fledged government enterprise by both the political leaders of the countries in which it operated, as well as by its rivals in industry. . . [I]t was often difficult to determine if Bechtel Corporation was doing favors for the US government, or if it was the other way around.” As a result of the close, ongoing relationship between the company and the US government and the enormous influence wielded by the firm, Bechtel was repeatedly able to avoid being held responsible “for its cost overruns, unfair employment practices, security violations, pattern of retaliation against whistleblowers, and massive reductions in its workforce.” The company might also have been disgraced (but wasn’t) by the blatant conflicts of interest that arose from the actions of John McCone, George Schultz, and Casper Weinberger to steer business its way from their senior posts in Washington, DC. (Schultz was Secretary of State, Weinberger Secretary of Defense.) “In the end,” Denton concludes, “this is the ugly, untold story of America. A story not of the triumph of laissez faire capitalism, but of Profiteers whose sole client was government itself.” The curious case of Jonathan Pollard Denton begins and ends her story of Bechtel with the case of Jonathan Pollard, a former intelligence analyst who was convicted of spying for Israel in 1987 and released from prison only in 2015. The median penalty for his offense was a term of between two and four years in prison, and since Pollard expressed remorse and entered into a plea agreement with the government, he was set to be sentenced to time served. Instead, heeding a secret letter from Casper Weinberger, the former Bechtel executive who was serving as Secretary of Defense, the judge sentenced Pollard to life. Denton contends that Pollard’s life sentence came about because Weinberger feared exposure for his part in Bechtel’s secret involvement in building a nuclear reactor in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq (the one subsequently bombed by Israeli planes). Though this makes for a good story, it’s impossible to believe. Generations of senior government officials, few of them beholden to Bechtel, have repeatedly weighed in against clemency for Pollard. In supporting their case, they have cited a long list of serious breaches of US security. For example, they have alleged that he turned over to Israel “the National Security Agency’s ten-volume manual on how the U.S. gathers its signal intelligence, and disclosed the names of thousands of people who had cooperated with U.S. intelligence agencies.” They have also insisted that Pollard didn’t spy just for Israel, as his apologists contend, but “shopped” secret documents to other countries, including Pakistan. Although I am congenitally skeptical of statements from senior government officials, especially those from the military-intelligence establishment, it defies logic for me to believe that so many prominent figures in the federal government over such a long period of time could be making all this up and repeating it year after year after year. There’s simply too much credible detail in their claims. Denton’s implied rejection of the case against Pollard undermines the credibility of her story — most unfortunately, since her account of Bechtel’s history otherwise squares with historical fact in every respect known to me. About the author The Nevada-based investigative journalist Sally Denton has written eight books about such diverse subjects as pioneer women in the American West, the growth of Las Vegas, the life of Helen Gahagan Douglas, and the rise of the American Right.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Holly

    This should be read in tandem with Jane Mayer's Dark Money. Great journalists (who happen to be women) reveal bad men and their power in US history.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Anno Nomius

    Read this book with an open mind, once you have done that share this book with a friend and ask that friend to share it too. I hope this book is read by many, many people, many, many fellow Americans and hopefully somebody would be moved to take action to stop corporations like Bechtel screwing with American tax dollars. This book touched me at so many levels it is hard to say that one thing that I took away after reading this book but if you are wondering why we have a trillion dollar deficit r Read this book with an open mind, once you have done that share this book with a friend and ask that friend to share it too. I hope this book is read by many, many people, many, many fellow Americans and hopefully somebody would be moved to take action to stop corporations like Bechtel screwing with American tax dollars. This book touched me at so many levels it is hard to say that one thing that I took away after reading this book but if you are wondering why we have a trillion dollar deficit read this book. If you want to learn why there was an Iraq war read this book. If you are wondering why some in the middle east hates us so much read this book and then you can thank Bechtel. If you want to learn how corporations do business with the government so they get no bid contracts, read this book. I could go on and on. The author did an excellent job of supporting each claim and the narrative was riveting. The author walks us through the history, from the inception of the company, through the early 1900s, to the company's biggest initial success, the hoover dam and subsequent projects, world wars, atomic bomb, oil pipe lines in the middle east, nuclear power plants and on and on. Each time it was interesting to understand how they got the contract to build, who they colluded with to make it happen. It was nauseating to learn about greedy men who have no qualms about manipulating their way to make profits for themselves. The country and the countrymen can go to hell.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Aileen Swenson

    This book was infuriating. I feel like my eyes have opened to how the American economy, foreign policy, and government contracts really work. Also, how rich, powerful insiders have a disgustingly strong influence on government decisions. (Decisions which benefit those insiders.) Ugh, how depressing, but oh, how necessary a read this book is!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Robert Daniel

    Fascinating. Who knew of all the linkages between politicians and this company. The names cited, the dollar values. The action behind the scenes. The book opens and concludes with discussions about Jonathan Pollard. You will have to read the book to find out as the author weaves a riveting narrative linking Bechtel with the leadership in the White House, CIA and Department of Defense. The names and facts include: Iraq, Saddam Hussein, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Israel, petro-dollars, Casper Weinberge Fascinating. Who knew of all the linkages between politicians and this company. The names cited, the dollar values. The action behind the scenes. The book opens and concludes with discussions about Jonathan Pollard. You will have to read the book to find out as the author weaves a riveting narrative linking Bechtel with the leadership in the White House, CIA and Department of Defense. The names and facts include: Iraq, Saddam Hussein, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Israel, petro-dollars, Casper Weinberger, lobbying, influence, insiders, KBR, reconstruction of Iraq after the 1st and 2nd Gulf Wars, chemical weapons, Libya, Occidental Petroleum. I could not put this down.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Alyce

    THE PROFITEERS: BECHTEL AND THE MEN WHO BUILT THE WORLD by Sally Denton is an incredibly well researched account of the birth and growth of the global nation building company, Bechtel Corporation. Bechtel Company is still privately owned and over 115 years old. Ms. Denton chronicles the history and development of the company from a small road grading company in Nevada that was founded by "Pa" Bechtel in 1898 to one of the world's largest construction companies. The company's mantra is that it can THE PROFITEERS: BECHTEL AND THE MEN WHO BUILT THE WORLD by Sally Denton is an incredibly well researched account of the birth and growth of the global nation building company, Bechtel Corporation. Bechtel Company is still privately owned and over 115 years old. Ms. Denton chronicles the history and development of the company from a small road grading company in Nevada that was founded by "Pa" Bechtel in 1898 to one of the world's largest construction companies. The company's mantra is that it can "build anything, any place, any time." Almost as impressive is the fact that they have been run by family members the entire time, except for one brief stint recently after the reign of Riley Bechtel while waiting for his son to get up to speed. Bechtel is also able to tackle seemingly insurmountable projects in indomitable locations due to their abillity to innovate, plan, persevere and have an overall lack of concern for human capital on the jobsites as was seen in their construction of the Hoover Dam in the Mojave Desert. Over five generations Bechtel has been involved in some of the world's most notable projects including the Hoover Dam, the Big Dig, the rebuilt the oil fields after Desert Storm, rebuilt New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, removed destruction and debris of the World Trade Center bombings, rebuilt Iraq, and the list goes on. They have also constructed airports, ports, power plants, nuclear power plants, and cities. The argument that Denton lays out is repeated throughout the book, Bechtel got where it is today through its revolving door with Washington DC. The company has had its hands in every political party over the generations and due to these relationships was able to win a number of no bid contracts. It appears there were connections, but direct ties are harder to substantiate. It is shocking to learn of the number of individuals who worked for Bechtel and then held positions in the White House and vice verse. The reader will have to reach his/her own conclusions. This book is a pleasure to read as it chronicles the birth of one of the most powerful companies in the world and how it has influenced how so much is built over the world. A must read! Many thanks to the author, the publisher and Netgalley for this advanced copy in exchange for my unbiased review. This book was published February 16, 2016.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Cami

    Infuriating. Name a big infrastructure or recovery project and Bechtel, the largest government contractor in the world, was involved. The Hoover Dam, San Francisco's BART, the Big Dig, FEMA trailers for Katrina recovery, the expanse of solar panels on I-15 in Mohave desert are all Bechtel projects mostly awarded via political cronyism. This is an important book, but not necessarily an enjoyable read. It becomes repetitive: Bechtel employee is appointed to high levels of government, said employee Infuriating. Name a big infrastructure or recovery project and Bechtel, the largest government contractor in the world, was involved. The Hoover Dam, San Francisco's BART, the Big Dig, FEMA trailers for Katrina recovery, the expanse of solar panels on I-15 in Mohave desert are all Bechtel projects mostly awarded via political cronyism. This is an important book, but not necessarily an enjoyable read. It becomes repetitive: Bechtel employee is appointed to high levels of government, said employee meddles with foreign/domestic policy, huge projects are awarded, costs overrun by the hundreds of millions or billions (of taxpayer dollars), there is a small public outcry and it all seems forgotten the next time a big government project is found to be "necessary". The Bechtel story includes many familiar names. Notorious clients: Saddam Hussein, Hezbollah, the PLO. Notable employees of both Bechtel and the Federal government: Cap Weinberger, Secretary of Defense; Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense; George Schultz, Secretary of State; and many more that I couldn't keep track of. Puppets: Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, GHW Bush, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and to a surprising extent, Barack Obama. Enablers: Bill Weld, Mitt Romney, Bill Richardson and so many more. Sally Denton has produced a well-researched, bold work but I disagree a with her implied conclusion. She often describes the relationship between Bechtel and governments as "capitalism" and even associates this sort of thinking with Milton Friedman (?!!!?). This is a fundamental misunderstanding of Friedman and free market capitalism. What she is describing is in this book has nothing to do with an open, free market; it is rigged, corrupt cronyism. Milton Friedman did not want government and business involved with each other. He thought government should be a neutral umpire - not an active participant in the market. This level of cronyism is only made possible by the bloated expansion of the federal government and its meddling in other countries, especially those in the Middle East.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Darren

    A fascinating, eye-opening and inspiring book that looks at the history of Bechtel, a massive American company that has managed to spread its tentacles firmly around the world, constructing some of the largest, most-impressive buildings and facilities in the process. An American success story, built from humble beginnings and kept in the family, and the author promises the inside story and the real scoop of this mega-empire that became one of the world’s largest privately held companies in just f A fascinating, eye-opening and inspiring book that looks at the history of Bechtel, a massive American company that has managed to spread its tentacles firmly around the world, constructing some of the largest, most-impressive buildings and facilities in the process. An American success story, built from humble beginnings and kept in the family, and the author promises the inside story and the real scoop of this mega-empire that became one of the world’s largest privately held companies in just five generations. This book is capable of being so much to so many: business history, political intrigue, world development and even an action-packed adventure. It is a hefty tome that keeps the reader engaged and certainly very informed. The company has undoubtedly been involved in controversies, yet it has certainly achieved rather a lot too at the same time. The author does not lecture or preach a certain viewpoint, instead the facts are given and the reader is free to make their own impressions. This is a short review as there is nothing to criticise. Even if you are sceptical to whether you may like a business history-type book, this one may be different due to its sheer scope and scale. It is engaging, giving and informative and certainly not boring. It can be one of those unexpected finds if you just take a gamble. For those who purposefully select this book, it will be a quality investment.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Deidre

    Books about giant private companies aren't generally page turners but Sally Denton's well-researched profile of the Bechtel company is fascinating and riveting. The chapters are short, each delineating the ways that Bechtel has move inside and outside of the U.S. government and other governments around the world to continue growing and adding profits to their bottom line. What's fascinating about this book is the way Denton showed how in many ways, Bechtel has remained a constant in our world fo Books about giant private companies aren't generally page turners but Sally Denton's well-researched profile of the Bechtel company is fascinating and riveting. The chapters are short, each delineating the ways that Bechtel has move inside and outside of the U.S. government and other governments around the world to continue growing and adding profits to their bottom line. What's fascinating about this book is the way Denton showed how in many ways, Bechtel has remained a constant in our world for decades. Many things have changed but the company continues to thrive and expand, mainly through its close relationship with the government and political power. Like Dark Money, this book is a must-read for understanding the underlying power structures at work in the world. Both books have weathered claims of liberal bias however both were undertaken by journalists who spent years on research and discovery. What emerges is that these companies are not political, they are supra political, the government, regardless of who is in charge, is an entity to be swayed and coerced. The book says more about the revolving door between Bechtel and the government than any one political figure. Did the writer form an opinion about Bechtel? Perhaps, but the book's focus sticks mainly to projects and the ways they were built rather than as an indictment of the company itself.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Daniel

    I've enjoyed Denton before, and this book was eye opening in the thorough manner she documents Bechtel's amazing penchant for winning government contracts. However, Denton throws a couple punches that don't land, and the book falters for them. In particular, she seems to see a connection between Bechtel and the Iran-Contra Affair. After several re-readings of the chapter, I am no closer to understanding what that connection is. Also, her drive to paint a hyper-sympathetic a portrait of Jonathan I've enjoyed Denton before, and this book was eye opening in the thorough manner she documents Bechtel's amazing penchant for winning government contracts. However, Denton throws a couple punches that don't land, and the book falters for them. In particular, she seems to see a connection between Bechtel and the Iran-Contra Affair. After several re-readings of the chapter, I am no closer to understanding what that connection is. Also, her drive to paint a hyper-sympathetic a portrait of Jonathan Pollard leads her, at one point, to quote World Net Daily, which made me cringe.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Charles

    Finding conspiracies to sell books People like to read about conspiracies, so such books sell. And where better to build a conspiracy theory than by examining a privately held company that doesn’t have the same disclosure requirements as a public company and whose clients are governments around the world? I chose this book because I knew very little about Bechtel, except that was involved in the construction of the Hoover Dam on the Colorado River and is one of the world’s biggest civil engineerin Finding conspiracies to sell books People like to read about conspiracies, so such books sell. And where better to build a conspiracy theory than by examining a privately held company that doesn’t have the same disclosure requirements as a public company and whose clients are governments around the world? I chose this book because I knew very little about Bechtel, except that was involved in the construction of the Hoover Dam on the Colorado River and is one of the world’s biggest civil engineering construction firms. If you can drill through author Sally Denton’s unremitting allegations, which consist of an unquestioning rehash of charges made by others, there is the chronicle of an American company with a fascinating history of accomplishment and the occasional failure, able to navigate the treacherous shoals of government contracting. Bechtel is one of the world’s largest closely held companies, and five generations of the family have run it very successfully. That, in itself, is remarkable given the typical trajectory of family businesses disintegrating within two, or at most three, generations. Bechtel has been the world’s builder, benefiting from huge government contracts for engineering and infrastructure work in difficult places. Since such infrastructure projects are government funded, successful companies must be good at nurturing relationships with power brokers, whether they are in Washington, state capitals, or other governments around the world especially in the Middle East. No history of the company would be credible without an examination of the Bechtel-government revolving door and it is fair for Denton to point to this as a major factor in the firm’s success. CIA Director John McCone, Defense Secretary Casper Weinberger, and George Schultz, who held an unprecedented four cabinet positions including Secretary of State, are among Bechtel alumni. Schultz became Bechtel’s President after leaving government service. Like sausage making, the process of awarding government contracts is not pretty, and US government influence often extends to overseas projects, particularly in the Middle East. Following the second Gulf war, Bechtel’s projects to rebuild destroyed infrastructure in Iraq floundered, but the company was operating in an overall environment of mismanagement by US policy makers and a highly unstable security situation as civil war broke out between Shiites and Sunnis. Instead of fully understanding and explaining the specifics of the deals hammered out by Bechtel on government projects, Denton instead includes silly stories such as skinny dipping at Bohemian Grove, the exclusive all male retreat for the West Coast elite. There is a digression about the case of convicted Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard, who Denton is convinced received a particularly harsh sentence because of Casper Weinberger’s anti-semitism. The connection with Bechtel is tenuous at best. It turns out that Denton churns out popularized and superficially researched books on such “conspiracies” as Las Vegas and Wall Street, law enforcement coverup of drug dealing in Kentucky, and various right wing plots to assassinate Franklin Roosevelt. The last paragraph of the book sets forth Denton’s thesis: “This is the ugly, untold story of America. A story not of the triumph of laissez faire capitalism, but of Profiters whose sole client was the government itself.” In conclusion, readers would be advised to first consider the final paragraph of Denton’s book to determine if they can put aside her purple prose and bias and gain some insight about a remarkable company and how it has stayed at the forefront of competition to win mega construction and engineering projects. As the Financial Times said in its review of the book, “The Profiteers stands as a challenge to journalists: try again.”

  17. 4 out of 5

    Janet

    I recently read an article entitled “General Assembly Members Share Gratitude With Students at Catawba Valley Community College.” This partnership was established between the state government and the Catawba Valley Furniture Academy to build fifty love seats for the North Carolina capital building. These pieces will replace furniture from 1963. Amazingly, each piece only costs $250. What an opportunity for these students to put on their resumes; and for taxpayers no big government contract; it i I recently read an article entitled “General Assembly Members Share Gratitude With Students at Catawba Valley Community College.” This partnership was established between the state government and the Catawba Valley Furniture Academy to build fifty love seats for the North Carolina capital building. These pieces will replace furniture from 1963. Amazingly, each piece only costs $250. What an opportunity for these students to put on their resumes; and for taxpayers no big government contract; it is a win-win for all. However, when it comes to infrastructure, it takes a larger entity to accomplish the big stuff. Government funded construction contracts are nothing new and cover the gambit of roads, bridges, schools, hospitals and so much more. A staggering and endless amount of money is involved. For the Iraq war under the Bush administration, Bechtel and Halliburton were the main contractors. And those big government contracts continued under Clinton and Obama. It all began when Warren A. “Dad” Bechtel got his break with a subcontract with Western Pacific Railroad, and later one to build the Hoover Dam. From there “Dad” and his sons built their company with government contracts. The list includes but is not limited to the Dulles Corridor Metrorail Extension, the Bay Area Rapid Transit system, the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System and international airports. The list goes on to include ports, harbors, hydroelectric and nuclear plants, bridges and the futuristic Saudi Arabian city of Jubail. Bechtel is right up there with Cargill, Dell and Koch Industries. These private companies answer to no one, exude power and are responsible for multitudes of growth in the world. They are an invisible wing of the White House funded by taxpayers. This well written and detailed packed book is the story of the Bechtel Empire

  18. 5 out of 5

    Dina

    “The Bechtel story is most important for how the company embodied the rise of a corporate capitalism forged in the American West that over the decades took the world by storm—a capitalism much more in line with cronyism than free market ideology. Bechtel pioneered the revolving door system that now pervades both US politics and the American economic system—a door that came to shape foreign policy not always in the interest of the nation and its citizens, but for the interests of multinational co “The Bechtel story is most important for how the company embodied the rise of a corporate capitalism forged in the American West that over the decades took the world by storm—a capitalism much more in line with cronyism than free market ideology. Bechtel pioneered the revolving door system that now pervades both US politics and the American economic system—a door that came to shape foreign policy not always in the interest of the nation and its citizens, but for the interests of multinational corporations. In the end, this is the ugly, untold story of America. A story not of the triumph of laissez faire capitalism, but of Profiteers whose sole client was government itself.” - S. Denton. Very well written book, and I am actually going to keep it to re-read later. The scary part is that US government morphed into corporation, or rather outsourced its most important functions to corporate entities whose interest might or might not coincide with US government interests or rather would drive the latter for the former. Just like the tail that wags the dog. Since war and rebuilding is such a profitable business for those corporation they will never stop and few elites will pocket the money of taxpayers who will carry the bill and destruction, including nuclear energy and space that is slowly going into private hands.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Richard

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. This book was an investigative Journalist's insight on the Bechtel Group. The history of their founders and its succession through history. The author went the extra mile on sourcing documents from various repositories. A good mix of press releases and Historical data, contracts, interviews, state of addresses and legal cases. Direct quotes from archived sources were laid out plentifully around the text. All evidence to unmask the allegations against the Bechtel family, its private corporation, This book was an investigative Journalist's insight on the Bechtel Group. The history of their founders and its succession through history. The author went the extra mile on sourcing documents from various repositories. A good mix of press releases and Historical data, contracts, interviews, state of addresses and legal cases. Direct quotes from archived sources were laid out plentifully around the text. All evidence to unmask the allegations against the Bechtel family, its private corporation, and their involvement with the U.S. Government. Billion Dollar contracts and thousands of projects later, the Bechtel name became synonymous with Profiteering, Tax evasion and having a direct link to the CIA! Some of the information here blew my mind. It is hard to imagine all the dots that had to connect to make some of these projects happen. This company truly shaped the world, and will probably shape space. The author leaves it up to you to decide if they were just the right company at the right time. Or if they created their own luck through a series of double -o- seven worthy tactics.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Kent Johnson

    Evidently Bechtel never built a single "good" project. At least when an author takes the position that they are crooks which morphs into once a crook always a crook then Bechtel can never have assumed the risk to build a worthy project. But since I don't believe the author understands the construction industry and the relationship between risk the owner asks a contractor to take, and profit, that should probably be expected. Also, who are all these people I never heard of that the author quotes Evidently Bechtel never built a single "good" project. At least when an author takes the position that they are crooks which morphs into once a crook always a crook then Bechtel can never have assumed the risk to build a worthy project. But since I don't believe the author understands the construction industry and the relationship between risk the owner asks a contractor to take, and profit, that should probably be expected. Also, who are all these people I never heard of that the author quotes with negative comments about the company. It makes the book feel like a sophomoric paper where only the negative pieces that supports the authors position are chosen from a bibliography. That is not to say I am not disgusted with some of the shenanigans of Bechtel. I just have to take everything with a grain of salt because the author is so one sided. I would recommend the book if you like blown up mukraker books. If you really want to understand Bechtel, not so much.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Lorinda Toledo

    “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.” -Dwight D. Eisenhower. Sally Denton's masterful book, The Profiteers, shows how this happens, and who is getting rich from what may ultimately be the demise of us all “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.” -Dwight D. Eisenhower. Sally Denton's masterful book, The Profiteers, shows how this happens, and who is getting rich from what may ultimately be the demise of us all. A must-read for anyone who wants to understand the fraught relationship between American public & private sectors.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Christine Merrill

    A truly eye-opening and horrifying look at American capitalism, greed and privatization. I didn't know anything about the Bechtel corporation before reading this book, and now I want to scream from the rooftops about the cost they've created for American taxpayers to line their own pockets. All of that said, I had to read this a chapter at a time: although it's incredibly interesting and thought-provoking, it's dense and kind of depressing--not exactly a binge read! (Also--a favorite villain fro A truly eye-opening and horrifying look at American capitalism, greed and privatization. I didn't know anything about the Bechtel corporation before reading this book, and now I want to scream from the rooftops about the cost they've created for American taxpayers to line their own pockets. All of that said, I had to read this a chapter at a time: although it's incredibly interesting and thought-provoking, it's dense and kind of depressing--not exactly a binge read! (Also--a favorite villain from Bad Blood makes a strong appearance here as well!)

  23. 4 out of 5

    Hillary

    i really enjoyed the first half of this book, but once it reached the mid-70s in timeline, i lost interest. maybe this is because i don't have a background in middle eastern oil deals or a good awareness of the geopolitics in that part of the world at that time, but i really was having difficulty keeping track of names, places, and deals that were taking place.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Matt Heavner

    Definitely a look at Bechtel from one perspective, but even given that, a good look at a secretive family/company that has taken lots of public money and profited greatly. I was aware of some of what Bechtel does, but this book was very eye-opening. I was really surprised about the Iran-Contra / Israel, and Middle-East aspects. Overall, a great and eye-opening read.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Edward Sullivan

    A revealing, disturbing portrait of the secretive, sinister international conglomerate that profits handsomely from its dominating role in the military-industrial complex, the exploitation of natural resources, and the privatization of nuclear weapons production and management.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Craig Earnshaw

    Depressing story, well told, this partly explains the pathetic results of the first Pentagon audit, finally released in Nov 2018, the Pentagon failed badly and worse, the audit itself cost $400 million

  27. 4 out of 5

    Chris Csergei

    More like a 2.5 stars. Plenty of information, but seemed to be all over the place and did not bridge topics well.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

    So interesting/crazy! Also this whole story is more terrifying than our current administration...so many shady back alley deals!

  29. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    Eye opening — or maybe I have been naive and turned a blind eye along the way. Is ignorance really bliss? After reading this book, it makes me want to seek out other similar stories...

  30. 4 out of 5

    Larry Corio

    Dry and tedious

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