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Ron Dennis.

Dennis: I am disappointed they have put me on gardening leave

Ron Dennis has been forced to stand down as chairman and chief executive of McLaren, bringing to an end his 35-year involvement with the Formula One team.

The 69-year-old relinquish his duties at the team, who are the sport’s second most successful despite not having won a race for four years, following a decision by the majority shareholders to place him on gardening leave.

Dennis owns 25 percent of McLaren Group, while Bahrain’s sovereign wealth fund Mumtalakat owns 50 percent and Saudi-born businessman Mansour Ojjeh, the CEO of TAG, holds the remaining 25 percent.

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Dennis, who has been involved with former champions McLaren since 1980 and is one of F1’s biggest names, stood down as team principal in 2009 but returned as group chief executive in January 2014.

He is a legendary figure in Formula 1 circles and synonymous with the McLaren team he guided to enormous success during the eighties and nineties.

However, of late the team have fallen on leaner times winning a single title in 16 years, Lewis Hamilton’s 2008 Formula 1 World Championship.

He said in a statement:”I am disappointed that the representatives of TAG and Mumtalakat, the other main shareholders in McLaren, have forced through this decision to place me on gardening leave, despite the strong warnings from the rest of the management team about the potential consequences of their actions on the business.”

Dennis owns 25 percent of McLaren Group, while Bahrain’s sovereign wealth fund Mumtalakat owns 50 percent and Saudi-born businessman Mansour Ojjeh, the CEO of TAG, holds the remaining 25 percent.

Dennis, who has been involved with former champions McLaren since 1980 and is one of F1’s biggest names, stood down as team principal in 2009 but returned as group chief executive in January 2014.

A report last week said that Mumtalakat and Ojjeh wanted to oust Dennis and that 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.

The report said that Dennis had failed to secure a High Court injunction against a move to sideline him until his contract expired in mid-January, and an emergency board meeting had been convened.

The BBC reported that the other shareholders felt that Dennis’ autocratic style was not suited to growing McLaren in the future, a claim he denied on Tuesday.

“The grounds they have stated are entirely spurious; 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 1 world championships and grown into an £850-million a year business.”

“Throughout that time I have worked closely with a series of talented colleagues, to whom I will always be extremely grateful, to keep McLaren at the cutting edge of technology.

“Ultimately it has become clear to me through this process that neither TAG nor Mumtalakat share my vision for McLaren and its true growth potential.

“But my first concern is to the business I have built and to its 3500 employees. I will continue to use my significant shareholding in both companies and my seats on both boards to protect the interests and value of McLaren and help shape its future.

“In addition I intend to launch a new technology investment fund once my contractual commitments with McLaren expire.

“This will capitalise on my expertise, my financial resources, together with external investment to pursue the many commercial opportunities I have been offered in recent years but have been unable to take up while being so committed to the existing business,” concluded Dennis’ statement.

Dennis’ journey in Formula 1 began as an 18-year-old mechanic for the Cooper team, before joining Brabham in 1968.

After a spell working as in various capacities and teams, he formed the Project Four company in the seventies and became a Formula 2 entrant.

Dennis became a Formula 1 team boss with McLaren in 1980, with Marlboro instrumental in placing him in charge of the team, while ditching Teddy Mayer who was boss until then and including the very successful Emerson Fittipaldi and James Hunt years.

In 1981 McLaren morhped into McLaren International in what Dennis termed “a reverse takeover” and a mere 18 months later he gained a controlling interest in the company. He was 32 at the time.

Mansour Ojjeh joined Dennis as a McLaren shareholder in 1984 and the pair have been partners in the business ever since.

Of McLaren’s 20 Formula 1 World Championships titles, 17 were won during Dennis’ time at the helm, including 158 victories of the team’s 182 triumphs.

Before Dennis took over, McLaren had not won a grand prix since James Hunt in 1977 and a constructors’ championship since 1974. But in 1982 and 1983 drivers Niki Lauda and John Watson returned the McLaren name to the top of the podium.

In 1984, they won both the drivers’ and constructors’ world championship titles – winning 12 of the season’s 16 races as Lauda edged team-mate Alain Prost to the individual title. The team retained both titles the following year.

McLaren’s dominance resumed in 1988 – their first era of Honda power – when they claimed both titles as between them Prost and Ayrton Senna won 15 of 16 the races, despite a high profile and nasty feud between the pair – the first of four successive years winning both championships.

After the Senna era, McLaren would have to wait another seven years to follow that success when they took both the drivers’ and the constructors’ titles with Mika Hakkinen their main driver in 1998.

Hakkinen managed to retain his title in 1999, but at that point in history Ferrari had emerged as the sport’s most dominant team with Michael Schumacher unbeatable for the first five years of the new century.

McLaren had to wait until the 2008 Formula 1 World Championship to claim another title, a season after they were stripped of their 2007 constructors’ points and fined £49.2m for using information leaked from title rivals Ferrari in what became known infamously as ‘spy-gate.”

Lewis Hamilton returned McLaren to the limelight with the title almost a decade ago. The Briton’s rise through the team’s Young Driver Support Programme is well documented.

Hamilton remained a McLaren driver until 2012, before departing and joining fellow McLaren refugee Paddy Lowe. Since then the pair have won six world titles with Mercedes.

When Hamilton departed the team spiraled downwards, with their last win going to Jenson Button in 2012 Brazilian Grand Prix.

In 2015 McLaren re-united with Honda, but the combination has simply not delivered as the did a quarter of a century earlier. The team wallows in the midfield with Button and Fernando Alonso, among the best drivers in the business, scrapping for the occasional point.