From the bestselling coauthor of The Money and the Power, the “compelling corporate history” (The National Book Review) and 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. They 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. In their century-long quest, five generations of Bechtel men have harnessed and distributed much of the planet’s natural resources, including solar geothermal power. Bechtel is now one of the largest privately held corporations in the world.
The Bechtel Group has eclipsed its few rivals, with developments in emerging and third world nations that include secret military installations and defense projects; underground bunkers in Kuwait, Iraq, and Afghanistan; oil pipelines and entire cities in the Middle East; palaces for Arab rulers, such as the Saudi Royal Family; and chemical plants for Arab dictators.
Like all stories of empire building, the rise of Bechtel—one of the first mega companies to emerge in the American West—presents a complex and riveting narrative. Veiled in obsessive secrecy, Bechtel has had closer ties to the US government than any other private corporation in modern memory. “Riveting and revealing” (Kirkus Reviews), The Profiteers is one of the biggest business and political stories of our time.
Greed, corruption, hypocrisy, and skullduggery shadow Bechtel, a mammoth construction company, in this dour corporate history. Journalist Denton (The Money and the Power) follows the contractor from its early days erecting the Hoover Dam through its current global omnipresence, building airports, pipelines, nuclear plants, and even a whole city in Saudi Arabia. She focuses on the company's unsavory entanglements with the U.S. government and foreign potentates: for example, she ties a Reagan administration tilt toward Arab countries and against Israel to Secretary of State George Schultz and Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, both ex-Bechtel executives. She suggests that they wanted to further the company's interests in building Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein a sinister chemical plant and other projects. (A lengthy digression paints the Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard as a noble victim of a Bechtel-related vendetta by Weinberger.) Denton's claims about the company's control over U.S. policy "Bechtel's political influence in Washington would set the stage for privatizing foreign policy" are never fully backed up with evidence; more convincing are her revelations about the mundane corruption of Bechtel's coziness with government officials, which wins the company lucrative no-bid contracts. Denton's rambling narrative gets overwrought about Bechtel's tentacular villainy, but enough of her charges stick to raise troubling questions about the company's relationships with the powerful.