All change at the top as Dennis leaves McLaren
An interim management structure is put in place, with Zak Brown and Jonathan Neale taking charge of McLaren’s day-to-day running
McLaren face a period of management upheaval following the departure of Ron Dennis from his role at the helm of the company.
Dennis, 69, technically remains as chairman and chief executive, but has been put on ‘gardening leave’ pending the end of his contract in mid-January, and is no longer playing an active role in the running of the company. McLaren have appointed Zak Brown as an executive director and have announced an interim management structure. Brown, who also has a non-executive role at Motorsport Network, F1 Racing’s parent company, attended the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix with McLaren, but did not officially start work for them until December.
McLaren are now run by an executive committee, made up of 50 per cent shareholders Mumtalakat, the investment arm of the Kingdom of Bahrain, and 25 per cent shareholder Mansour Ojjeh of TAG, who engineered Dennis’ departure. Dennis remains as a 25 per cent shareholder. Mumtalakat and Ojjeh have empowered Brown and chief operating officer Jonathan Neale to run the business on a day-to-day basis. This complicates the situation of McLaren Racing’s new CEO, Jost Capito, who joined the team in September and whose contract dictates that he report to the chief executive of McLaren Group, Ron Dennis, who no longer works there.
Technically, Capito now reports to the executive committee but, as Neale put it: “I liken it to the cabinet secretary role where there are permanent heads of their respective functions and somebody has to co-ordinate the day-to-day activity. So Zak and I have limited authority from that executive committee, and can fulfil those duties under governance given to me by them.” So Neale and Brown run the McLaren Group together, with Neale focusing on technical and sporting matters and Brown on marketing and commerce. Capito runs McLaren Racing but will work with Neale on the sporting side, with Brown taking charge of marketing and money raising, the latter having been a problem for McLaren in recent years. But Capito is planning to reorganise the F1 side, which may cause conflict with racing director Eric Boullier, who has been restructuring the team over the past two years.
Capito told the BBC: “Lots of changes have to be done, but with changes you always have to be careful about how and when. I had talks with many employees, from the cleaner to the racing director, and I think I know what has to be done, and mainly there has to be a cultural change. It has to become more of a race team again.”
Boullier structured McLaren Racing around the technical leadership of Peter Prodromou, Matt Morris and Tim Goss. They work together, with Prodromou overseeing aero, Morris the design office, and Goss in charge of systems and advanced engineering. But there is no overall technical leader. Capito said it was “too early” to say whether he would change that, but it is believed that he will. He also declined to give a date for when any changes would be announced.
Capito said he expected McLaren to make a step forward next year after climbing from ninth to sixth in the constructors’ standings in 2016.
“I expect improvement on the car from McLaren and a big step from Honda on the engine,” he said. “It is a very good partnership and the Honda guys understand more what is needed from the chassis side and we understand more what is needed from the engine side. I expect not just the improvement of each but also the improvement of the overall relationship.”