By Alan Baldwin
LONDON (Reuters) – Ron Dennis has been forced out as chairman and chief executive of McLaren, bringing to an end the Briton’s 35-year involvement with one of Formula One’s top teams.
The 69-year-old relinquished his duties on Tuesday following a decision by the majority shareholders to place him on ‘gardening leave’ until his contract expires in mid-January.
McLaren said in a statement that Dennis, who has a 25 percent stake in the McLaren Technology Group, would remain a shareholder and director.
It added that McLaren “will be run on an interim basis by an Executive Committee comprising the Group’s majority shareholders” until a new CEO was appointed.
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 the job in paddock speculation. He was not immediately available for comment.
Dennis said he was disappointed the shareholders had “forced through this decision… 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…,” he added.
A Sky News report last week said that Bahrain’s sovereign wealth fund Mumtalakat, which owns 50 percent, and Saudi-born businessman Mansour Ojjeh, the CEO of TAG who holds the remaining 25 percent, wanted Dennis out.
It said an unidentified consortium of Chinese investors had made a 1.65 billion pounds ($2.05 billion) takeover bid for McLaren Technology Group that Dennis supported but the other shareholders opposed.
Dennis, who has been involved with McLaren since 1980 and is one of F1’s leading lights, stood down as team principal in 2009 but returned as group chief executive in January 2014. The team last won a race in 2012.
Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone told Reuters that Dennis had failed to secure a High Court injunction last week against the move to sideline him until mid-January.
The BBC reported that the other shareholders 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 pounds a year business,” he said.
“Ultimately it has become clear to me… that neither TAG nor Mumtalakat share my vision for McLaren and its true growth potential.”
Dennis said he planned to use his shareholding and board position to “protect the interests and value of McLaren and help shape its future” and would also launch a new technology investment fund.
($1 = 0.8047 pounds)
(Additional reporting by Toby Davis, editing by Pritha Sarkar and Ken Ferris)