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Dennis to sever links with McLaren in end of an era

McLaren chairman Ron Dennis

McLaren chairman Ron Dennis

Ron Dennis, the chairman of McLaren’s Formula One team and separate sports carmaker, will step down from his role at the brand and sell his shares, ending a 37-year relationship which soured in recent months alongside race-track failings.

The 70-year-old was placed on garden leave last November after losing a boardroom battle with the team’s shareholders.

But yesterday it was announced that Ron Dennis has sold his 25 per cent share in the McLaren Technology Group, officially bringing to an end 37 years at the helm of the Woking-based constructor.

Dennis spearheaded McLaren to nearly 20 Formula One drivers’ and constructors’ championships, and was instrumental in Lewis Hamilton’s career after he signed him in 2007.

McLaren, however, have failed to win a race in nearly five years, and are last in this season’s championship despite Fernando Alonso scoring their first points of the campaign in Azerbaijan last Sunday.

“I am very pleased to have reached agreement with my fellow McLaren shareholders,” Dennis said.

“It represents a fitting end to my time at McLaren, and will enable me to focus on my other interests. I have always said that my 37 years at Woking should be considered as a chapter in the McLaren book, and I wish McLaren every success as it takes the story forward.”

Dennis, who transformed McLaren into one of the most successful teams in Formula One history, has been among the most influential and important figures in the Formula One paddock for the past four decades.

He oversaw Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost’s historic tussle for the title as McLaren drivers in 1988 and 1989 before Finnish driver Mika Hakkinen clinched back-to-back championships with the Woking-based outfit in 1998 and 1999. Hamilton also won his first title in only his second year in the sport as a McLaren driver back in 2008.

But the British team’s success has dried up in recent years, and their renewed relationship with Japanese engine manufacturer Honda has been nothing short of a disaster. Meanwhile, the future of their star driver Alonso, out of contract at the end of the season, is also in doubt.

But it was Dennis’ strained relationship with significant minority shareholder Mansour Ojjeh in recent times that ultimately led to his demise.

Dennis’ departure has led to a restructure of McLaren. McLaren Technology Group and McLaren Automotive, the high-performance sports cars arm of the brand, will now both fall under one umbrella as the McLaren Group.

American Zak Brown, who effectively replaced Dennis, retains his position as executive director. Chief operating officer Jonathan Neale, and Eric Boullier, the Frenchman who spearheads the team’s day-to-day racing operation, also keep their roles.

Mumtalakat, the Bahrain sovereign investment fund, is the majority shareholder of the McLaren Group with Sheikh Mohammed bin Essa Al Khalifa its executive chairman.

“I would like to pay tribute to Ron’s immense contribution to the McLaren success story over the past 37 years,” Al Khalifa said.

“As soon as he had taken over the running of the team in the late autumn of 1980, it was immediately clear that here was a man whose ambition to surpass the achievements of all previous Formula One team principals would not be checked.

“There will be time in the near future to outline our plans, for the coming months and years will be an extremely exciting time in the story of McLaren.”

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