The history of ExxonMobil is that of a true corporate giant. It all started when John D. Rockefeller and partners formed the Standard Oil Company in 1870. Due to their considerable skills in political maneuvering and a ruthless business ethic, by 1878 Standard Oil controlled 95% of the US refining capacity. Unfortunately, in 1989, Standard Oil's business ingenuity was questioned when company officials were indicted for violating state anti monopoly laws. Standard Oil was not convicted, but this marked the beginning of several attempts to curb its power.
In 1882 the Standard Oil Trust was formed. It was the first trust ever formed and was constructed to circumvent Ohio laws restricting ownership of out of state companies. In 1890 the Sherman Antitrust Act was passed largely in response to Standard Oil’s monopoly. The U.S. Supreme Court finally broke up the Standard Oil trust in 1911 into 34 different companies. The ownership group however, stayed largely the same. Two of the spin-off companies were Jersey Standard and Socony, the chief predecessor companies of Exxon and Mobil respectively. Over the years the two companies spread their interests to all over the world.
By now it is no secret that during the 1930s, when Walter C. Teagle was head of Standard Oil, the company forged close ties with I.G. Farben, a firm that supported the Nazis and used concentration camp labor. Charles Higham (a former New York Times writer and biographer) writes in his book Trading With the Enemy: ‘From the 1920s on Teagle showed a marked admiration for Germany’s enterprise in overcoming the destructive terms of the Versailles Treaty. His lumbering stride, booming tones, and clouds of cigar smoke became widely and affectionately known in the circles that helped support the rising Nazi Party’. While some would find this history problematic ExxonMobil knows that consumers can be incredibly forgiving. It is a testament to our efforts at building a respectable brand identity that ExxonMobil's predecesers are now primarily remembered for beefed up refining output to supply the Allied war effort rather than its nasty ties to genocidal fascist dictatorships.
In 1931 Socony purchased assets of Vacuum Oil and changed its name to Socony-Vacuum. Socony-Vacuum became Socony Mobil Oil Co. in 1955 and, in 1966, simply Mobil Oil Corp.
Jersey Standard changed its name to Exxon Corporation in 1972 and established Exxon as a trademark throughout the United States. In other parts of the world its affiliated companies continued to use the Esso trademark.
In the 1970s, Exxon, Mobil and other companies escalated exploration and development outside the Middle East in the North Sea, the Gulf of Mexico, Africa and Asia.
While ExxonMobil's predecessors were never without serious challenges, perhaps the biggest public scandal hit Exxon with the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989.
In 1998, Exxon and Mobil signed a definitive agreement to merge and form a new company called ExxonMobil Corporation. ‘This merger will enhance our ability to be an effective global competitor in a volatile world economy and in an industry that is more and more competitive,’ was the comment of Lee Raymond and Lou Noto, chairmen and chief executive officers of Exxon and Mobil respectively. After shareholder and regulatory approvals, the merger was completed in November 1999. A brave new world was born.