JANUARY 18, 2008

Meanwhile in Woking

There are constant rumours at the moment that there will be management changes at McLaren before the start of the 2008 season and whether these are deliberately-planted stories or whether there is anything to them remains to be seen. For the moment, however, the situation is that McLaren remains under the management of Ron Dennis, the man who has run the organisation since September 1980 when Project Four Racing was mnerged with the original McLaren Racing to form McLaren International. The original company (No 01517478) is today called McLaren Racing Ltd and is the signatory to the Concorde Agreement.

Dennis is chairman and chief executive of the McLaren Group and Team Principal of Vodafone McLaren Mercedes. The McLaren Group is the holding company of a number of different businesses which include McLaren Automotive, McLaren Composites, McLaren Electronic Systems, McLaren Marketing, McLaren Racing plus a number of non-trading companies such as McLaren Cars, McLaren Formula One Ltd, McLaren Formula 1 Ltd, McLaren Grand Prix Ltd, McLaren International, McLaren Research and Development Ltd, TAG McLaren Electronics (Holdings) and TAG McLaren GT Ltd.

Now 60, Dennis has long said that he might one day move to a less high profile role in the F1 operation if it was felt that it was the best thing for the company. That is an interesting argument as some seem to think that Dennis was tainted by what happened in 2007 while others think that his continued presence is a sign that McLaren and its partners do not accept what happened last year as being fair.

Dennis and his longtime business partner billionaire Mansour Ojjeh have been rumoured to be selling their shares to Mercedes-Benz for some time - even before the events of 2007 - and the word from Woking is that there are annual discussions about this. Last year the pair surprised everyone when they sold 30% of their empire to a Bahraini government company, while retaining control of the business by way of covenants with the new shareholders. Today they each hold 15% of the shares (and always vote together) while Mercedes-Benz is the largest individual shareholder with 40% of the stock.

The team lists Norbert Haug (52), the Mercedes-Benz Vice President with responsibility for motorsport as its second most important official. He has been in that role for 18 years and led the German company's return to F1 back in 1994.

Martin Whitmarsh (49 is the chief operating officer of the McLaren Group and chief executive of the F1 team. He has been with the team in a senior role for almost 20 years, having joined McLaren as head of operations back in 1989 from British Aerospace.

We will be keeping a close eye on developments in the weeks ahead but it is fair to say, based on the Bahrain deal last year, that rumours cannot always be believed and that the team traditional plays things very close to its chest.