After a long running board room feud, legendary F1 team boss Ron Dennis has been forced to “relinquish his duties” as the chairman and chief executive of the McLaren Technology Group.
As reported here during the Brazilian Grand Prix weekend, Dennis failed in an 11th hour attempt in the UK High Court last week to prevent his fellow McLaren shareholders – Mansour Ojjeh and the Bahraini Mumtalakat wealth fund – from suspending him on gardening leave until his contract expires in two months.
The 69-year-old had promised to find backers to buy Ojjeh and Mumtalakat out of their shares – between them they own 75 per cent of the McLaren Technology Group – and take overall control of the group. But despite a last minute bid with group of Chinese investors that situation has not come pass and he will leave his post as head of McLaren, a position he has held for 36 years.
In a statement released by McLaren, Dennis expressed his displeasure at the situation and dismissed the grounds for his suspension as “entirely spurious”, but vowed to honour his existing commitments to McLaren.
He said: “I am disappointed that the representatives of TAG and Mumtalakat, the other main shareholders in McLaren, have forced through this decision to place me on gardening leave, despite the strong warnings from the rest of the management team about the potential consequences of their actions on the business.
“The grounds they have stated are entirely spurious; 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 a year business. Throughout that time I have worked closely with a series of talented colleagues to keep McLaren at the cutting edge of technology, to whom I will always be extremely grateful.
“Ultimately it has become clear to me through this process that neither TAG nor Mumtalakat share my vision for McLaren and its true growth potential. But my first concern is to the business I have built and to its 3,500 employees. I will continue to use my significant shareholding in both companies and my seats on both boards to protect the interests and value of McLaren and help shape its future.”
Dennis, who has so far been overlooked by the British Government for a knighthood, despite his rival Sir Frank Williams and Sir Patrick Head of Williams both being favoured, explained that he has plans to create a new technology investment fund once his contract has expired.
He said: “I intend to launch a new technology investment fund once my contractual commitments with McLaren expire. This will capitalise on my expertise, my financial resources, together with external investment to pursue the many commercial opportunities I have been offered in recent years but have been unable to take up while being so committed to the existing business.”
According to the McLaren statement, Dennis will remain on the boards of both the McLaren Technology Group and McLaren Automotive and is still a “significant shareholder in both companies”.
The McLaren F1 team is currently sixth in the 2016 constructors’ championship with 75 points, and Fernando Alonso is its best place racer in the drivers’ standings in 10th place. His teammate Jenson Button will take a sabbatical next season and Stoffel Vandoorne, who scored the team’s first point of the season when he replaced Alonso in a one-off appearance at the Bahrain Grand Prix, will take his place in 2017. Alonso and Button finished 10th and 16th at last weekend’s race at Interlagos.
McLaren has not scored a podium finish in F1 since the 2014 Australian Grand Prix, when Kevin Magnussen and Button were second and third, and its last victory came courtesy of the British driver at the 2012 Brazilian race.
James Allen view: This news comes as no surprise, given the events of the past few months and even years at McLaren. They say in politics that “all great careers end in disappointment” and this is certainly true of this proud man, who has fought against all kinds of odds down the years, but who ultimately lost support from those closest to him in business.
I always said that Ron was the best and the worst thing about McLaren. His drive, energy and vision have made the company what it is and few could be bothered to invest the energy and obsessive attention to detail that he did into his work.
But the other side of his obsessiveness, his abrasive and at times high-handed manner and his blindness in certain crucial areas, ultimately caused problems and meant that the culture of the F1 team wasn’t quite right in recent times and the team didn’t achieve the success it could and should have done since the mighty Senna/Prost/Honda days of 1988-91.
The culture and tone he set were right for F1 at one time, but not for today and now a new culture will emerge at McLaren, more cosmopolitan, multi-national and supportive under Eric Boullier, Jonathan Neale and perhaps Zak Brown as a management trio.
Dennis has been a pioneer in taking F1 technology and applying it elsewhere and McLaren Applied Technologies is a world class tech company. It seems very appropriate that he should look to set up a technology fund as his next move. It’s the kind of thing that might finally bring him recognition from his country.
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