McLaren CEO Ron Dennis insists that the recent split between his team and Mercedes was initiated by McLaren and not the German manufacturer. According to Dennis, who spoke to Arabian Business, Mercedes had been trying to gain control of the team throughout their partnership. The German company owned a 40% stake in the team for most of that period.
“We initiated [the split], we wanted to be independent,” Dennis said. “This wasn’t something which we weren’t party to.”
According to Dennis’s version of the scenario, Mercedes kept pushing for total control of the team (which would imply a 100% acquisition), and McLaren finally decided to buy back their stake rather than dealing with the aggravation. “The more they wanted it, the less we wanted to give it to them,” Dennis said.
Dennis also indicated that he was concerned about the inherent risks involved in allowing a manufacturer control the destiny of a team. “Look at what happens,” Dennis said. “The influence [the car manufacturers] control is not always productive. CEOs change overnight.” Peter Sauber learned this lesson the hard way in his association with BMW.
Dennis went on to say, “I have got 30-odd years of my life in this company, huge quantities of friends and people who have been through thick and thin with me, and I made it very clear to Mercedes-Benz, as did the other shareholders, that we are not for sale. They hankered always.”
Thus, it became inevitable that the two entities part company as equity partners. But Dennis insists that the separation was completely amicable, and the team and the manufacturer continue to maintain a viable technical partnership.
“At the end of the day we were a fully integrated partner of Mercedes-Benz, and we still are,” Dennis said. “We are fiercely competitive on circuit, but off circuit we are still firm friends. I wouldn’t call it a sweetheart deal, but it was a win-win situation.”