By Adam Tate, Associate Editor
If reports from the Telegraph and others are to be believed, longtime McLaren Group Chairman and CEO Ron Dennis will vacate his role at the helm of the Woking-based firm when his contract runs out at the end of the year.
The impetus for such a huge change is the result of an unsuccessful bid by Dennis to buyout his business partners. Dennis currently owns 25% of the company as does his long time business partner Mansour Ojjeh. The remaining 50% is owned by the Bahraini sovereign wealth fund: Mumtalakat. Dennis, seeking to gain complete control of the company he saved from the doldrums in 1981 was responsible for the fantastical Apple buyout rumors from last month as Dennis contacted the tech company and others as potential investors for his plan.
Dennis couldn’t raise the necessary funds and the company board of directors has reportedly told him that his contract will not be rewed when it expires at year’s end.
The move strikes of bitterness on Ojjeh and the Bahraini’s part and has echoes of when FCA Chair Sergio Marchionne ousted Luca di Montezemolo at Ferrari.
Much like Montezemolo saved Ferrari and is the second most important figure in the company’s history, Ron Dennis has done more for McLaren than any man with the exception of Bruce McLaren himself. When Dennis and his Project Four racing team took over and merged with McLaren in the early 80’s they inherited a team on a downhill slide. Dennis immediately turned the team around by bringing in the right people including John Barnard who revolutionized the racing world by designing the first carbon fiber monocoque race car, the MP4/1 in 1981.
Since Dennis took control and reformed the team in 1981, McLaren has won 7 Constructor’s Championships, 10 Driver’s Championships and finished runner up in the Constructor’s Championship a ludicrous 12 times. Niki Lauda, Alain Prost, Ayrton Senna, Mika Hakkinen, Kimi Raikkonen, Juan Pablo Montoya, Fernando Alonso, Lewis Hamilton, and more have won races for the team in that time. Despite such extraordinary success the team’s lacklustre performance in its renewed relationship with Honda has put them woefully behind rivals Ferrari, Red Bull, and Mercedes. The last McLaren victory was the 2012 Brazilian Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton’s last race for the team.