Making a Killing

How and Why Corporations Use Armed Force to Do Business

Publisher: Vintage Canada
A dramatic and compelling journey into the dark heart of globalization. What happens when multinational corporations decide that the use of armed force is just business by other means?

In Making a Killing, Madelaine Drohan looks at the shocking number of companies that have linked up with mercenaries, warlords, armies and private militias in order to make a profit. In a world where multinationals often rival national governments in size and clout, the implications of such partnerships are ominous. What leads respectable corporations down the path to violence? Drohan answers this question by examining the actions of several companies operating in Africa, such as Ranger Oil West Africa, which used the mercenary group Executive Outcomes to take on rebels in Angola’s long-running civil war; and Talisman Energy, whose security was provided by Sudanese army units conducting a scorched-earth policy in the oil fields.

Drohan traces the modern roots of corporate armed force, beginning with Cecil Rhodes’ British South Africa Company, which at the turn of the century built its own army. Also included is the stranger-than-fiction tale of ex-MI5 spymaster Sir Percy Sillitoe, who was hired by the De Beers diamond king to prevent the Soviet Union from acquiring smuggled diamonds in order to develop the hydrogen bomb. These accounts read like adventure stories in the tradition of Rudyard Kipling and Ian Fleming, but they are essential reading for anyone interested in the effects of unfettered multinational influence. Making a Killing provides a road map for corporations, policy makers and investors struggling to come to terms with their roles in today’s increasingly globalized world.



We rocketed along the thin strip of pavement that passed for a highway in northeastern Angola, heading for a diamond mine located in what was, until recently, rebel-held territory. The drivers in our small convoy of cars and trucks were either extremely careless or terrified. Feet to the floor,...
Read More


“Bloodless accounting crimes look like child’s play when compared to the ruthless and deadly corporate practices detailed in Making A Killing…. Drohan’s grasp of her subject matter is impressive.... How she managed to get interviews with some of the dubious characters she did is a marvel. And she writes well.”
The Globe and Mail

“[A] compelling look at a very worthy subject.”
Toronto Star

“[A] compelling case for corporations to be held accountable for their actions, particularly when those actions are harmful to local populations.”
Winnipeg Free Press

“The dark side of adventure capital in Africa attracts a disturbingly intriguing array of characters, and Drohan brings them to life in all their Machiavellian wonder…. the overall impact of this fine study is to challenge the global corporate powers to understand and meet global human rights and humanitarian standards.”
The Gazette (Montreal)

Making a Killing is a good primer for readers concerned about the human cost of the unimpeded flow of oil and diamonds to their first-world markets.”
Quill & Quire

“As an experienced foreign correspondent and award-winning researcher, she sets the stage knowledgeably in the global context of how little meaning there is to an international order when or where corporate interests are at stake. Although the book is ostensibly about the use of mercenary armies to protect foreign investments in the governance-poor, resource-rich parts of the world, she is able to bring the larger agonies of these countries to the centre of the narrative…. compelling.
The Vancouver Sun

“A dramatic and compelling journey into the dark heart of globalization…. essential reading for anyone interested in the effects of unfettered multinational influence.”
—Canadian Institute of International Affairs

“…Drohan’s crisp and original reporting makes its point: Whether it is Shell in Nigeria or Ranger Oil in Angola, the abuses half-way around the world hit close to home.”
—The Ottawa Citizen