Formula One: Shareholders prompted McLaren boss to quit

Ron Dennis walking before the third practice session at the Autodromo Nazionale circuit in Monza.
Ron Dennis walking before the third practice session at the Autodromo Nazionale circuit in Monza.PHOTO: AFP

LONDON • Ron Dennis confirmed on Tuesday he has quit as boss of Formula One outfit McLaren after 35 years, following pressure from shareholders.

The 69-year-old - who helped guide the likes of Lewis Hamilton and Ayrton Senna to the F1 title - quit after shareholders demanded at a meeting on Tuesday that he step down as chairman and chief executive.

Dennis has a 25 per cent stake in McLaren while Bahrain's Mumtalakat investment fund owns 50 per cent and the remaining 25 per cent is held by his long-time business partner Mansour Ojjeh, a Saudi-born Frenchman.

Dennis and Ojjeh fell out a while ago and, according to The Telegraph, Dennis has not been able to raise the money after nearly three years spent desperately trying to find the backing to buy out Ojjeh's stake.

That parting of the ways has come back to haunt the Englishman as Ojjeh sided with the Bahrainis.

A statement from Dennis said he "had been required to relinquish his duties as chairman and chief executive of McLaren Technology Group (MTG).

"This follows a decision by the majority shareholders to place him on gardening leave."

Dennis said the other main shareholders "forced through" the decision "despite the strong warnings from the rest of the management team about the potential consequences of their actions on the business".

According to reports, the relationship reached breaking point when Dennis last week presented a US$2 billion (S$2.83 billion) takeover offer from a Chinese consortium and that did not go down well with the shareholders.

Dennis had applied to the High Court in London last Friday for an injunction to prevent the boardroom shake-up but lost.

The BBC reported that the other shareholders also felt Dennis' autocratic style was not suited to growing McLaren in the future, a claim he denied on Tuesday.

"My management style is the same as it has always been and is one that has enabled McLaren to become an automotive and technology group that has won 20 Formula One world championships and grown into an £850 million (S$1.5 billion) a year business," he said.

However, Dennis added he would not be walking away from the company entirely and would look out for the welfare of the employees.

American marketing executive Zak Brown, former head of CSM Sport&Entertainment, who has brought numerous top sponsors into Formula One, has already been linked to Dennis' job.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 17, 2016, with the headline 'Shareholders prompted McLaren boss to quit'. Print Edition | Subscribe