Daniel Yergin: The Prize Chapter 10 Synopsis

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A brief synopsis of the tenth chapter of The Prize by Daniel Yergin.

In 1990, Daniel Yergin composed the epic work, “The Prize.” The most concise summary of this masterpiece would be to call it “The Oil Bible.” Indeed, with 784 pages of text and almost 100 more of source material, “The Prize” is easily as thick as a Bible. But with such a long, twisting tale of international, personal, and geopolitical will grappling for the control of a single commodity, Yergin has done an excellent job of summarizing the tale. The following is a brief synopsis of chapter 10: Opening the Door on the Middle East: The Turkish Petroleum Company.

Before World War I, the great powers of Europe (France, Germany, and Britain) were grappling for control of prospective oil fields in the Middle East, especially in the region of Mesopotamia. The conflict was initially spearheaded by the German contingent (the Deutsche Bank) allied against William Knox D’Arcy’s Anglo-Persian Oil Company (who had British interests at heart). But a third player, known as the Turkish Petroleum Company, threw a monkey wrench in the whole works. The reason for this was primarily the personage of Calouste Gulbenkian, 15 percent owner of the Turkish Petroleum Company and referred to by Yergin as “Mr. Five Percent.” (Yergin, 185)

Gulbenkian used his 5 percent stake as leverage to force a settlement from the interested parties and get paid in cash. But he was not interested in hurrying; he successfully prevented conclusion of a deal until oil discoveries in Iraq brought enthusiasm to a fever pitch. Thus, he was in the best position to cash in on his investment, and this is exactly what he was searching for in exchange for his 5 percent stake.

Calouste was an eccentric recluse, however. Chapter 10 ends with this sentiment: “It was certainly a great victory for Gulbenkian—the culmination of thirty-seven years of concentration, and a testament to his perseverance and tenacity….to mark the grand event, he chartered a boat that summer and set off on a Mediterranean cruise with his daughter Rita. Off the coast of Morocco, he caught sight of a type of ship he had never seen before. It looked very strange to him, with its funnel jutting up at the extreme stern of the long hull. He asked what it was. ‘An oil tanker,’ Rita told him. He was fifty-nine years old, he had just made one of the greatest oil deals of the century, he was the Talleyrand of oil, and he had never before seen an oil tanker.” (Yergin, 206)