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The Profiteers

Bechtel and the Men Who Built the World

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.

Photograph by Aaron Mayes

Sally Denton is an investigative reporter, author, and historian who writes about the subjects others ignore—from a drug conspiracy in Kentucky to organized crime in Las Vegas; from corruption within the Mormon Church to the hidden history of Manifest Destiny; from one of America’s bitterest political campaigns to the powerful forces against Franklin D. Roosevelt. She has received the Guggenheim Fellowship, the Woodrow Wilson Public Scholar Fellowship, and the Black Mountain/Kluge Fellowship. She is the author of, among others, The Money and the Power, American Massacre, The Bluegrass Conspiracy, and The Profiteers: Bechtel and the Men Who Built the World.

"Investigative reporter Sally Denton has deftly pulled back the curtains on one of the most consequential business dynasties in America. "The Profiteers" is eye-opening reading for anyone who truly wants to understand how money, government and power intersect." – Jane Mayer, author of Dark Money and staff writer for The New Yorker magazine

“In the highest tradition of investigative journalism, Sally Denton tells the compelling, troubling story of a vast enterprise that has blurred the lines between governmental and corporate power. This is how our nation really works, and this is a book that's impossible to ignore. So don't.” – Walter Kirn, author of Blood Will Out and Up in the Air

"Investigative journalist Denton offers an ambitious "empire biography" of the Bechtel family and the secretive, privately held construction company-turned-diversified international conglomerate that has been "inextricably enmeshed" in U.S. foreign policy for seven decades. In this incredible-seeming but deeply researched book, the author traces the phenomenal rise of the California-based corporation that became famous for building the Hoover Dam and went on to handle billion-dollar projects from the Channel Tunnel to the Big Dig.... Filled with stories of cronyism and influence peddling, Denton's riveting and revealing book will undoubtedly displease the so-called "boys from Bechtel."
– Kirkus

"The author's journalistic writing style is fast paced, hard-hitting, and engaging.... This book will interest readers who enjoy contemporary U.S. history, Middle Eastern history, political science, and public works spending." Library Journal

"Denton dutifully reports Bechtel’s denials of influence-peddling but plainly doesn’t believe them. Instead, she maps coincidences between the government tenure of a Bechtel executive, such as George Schultz, and projects his former agency later awarded to Bechtel. However readers view the company, Denton’s extensively researched work informs readers about the firm’s maintenance as a privately held concern during its growth into a huge, multinational enterprise."
— Booklist

“In this compelling corporate history, she artfully detail show Bechtel accrued power by exploiting the “revolving door of capitalism,” through which its executives have glided effortlessly, moving between the company headquarters and the corridors of power in the nation’s capital.” – The National Book Review