Ron Dennis, the former boss of the McLaren automotive group, is to sever his decades-long ties with the company with the sale of his shareholding in a £275m deal.
Sky News has learnt that Mr Dennis has agreed to offload his stakes in McLaren Technology Group, which controls the eponymous Formula One (F1) team, and McLaren Automotive Limited, the road car manufacturer.
Sources said that the deal, which will be announced on Friday morning, will value McLaren at well over £2bn – making it one Britain’s most valuable private companies.
It will lead to the two arms of the company being combined under a single McLaren Group structure, sources said.
Mr Dennis, who turned 70 earlier this month, was put on gardening leave from his role of chief executive of MTG last December following an acrimonious legal battle with his fellow shareholders.
Since stepping down as MTG’s chairman and chief executive, Mr Dennis has joined the Ministry of Defence’s Innovation Advisory Panel, which is tasked with applying new technologies to defence activities.
He remained on the board of MTG but is now also relinquishing that role.
Mr Dennis spent more than 35 years as the boss of McLaren, enjoying huge success on the track with drivers such as Lewis Hamilton, who is now part of the Mercedes F1 team.
He also became one of Britain’s best-known businessmen, expanding McLaren’s technology ventures into a wide range of other industries through lucrative commercial partnerships.
However, the recent performance of the F1 team cast a shadow over the entire McLaren brand, and relations between Mr Dennis and his fellow investors – Mansour Ojjeh, his long-term business partner, and Mumtalakat, the Bahraini sovereign wealth fund – soured badly.
“I am disappointed that the representatives of TAG [Mr Ojjeh] and Mumtalakat…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,” Mr Dennis said in a statement last December.
“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 3,500 employees.”
It was unclear on Thursday night whether Mr Ojjeh and Mumtalakat are buying Mr Dennis’s stake or whether it is being sold to a third party.
Sky News revealed last year that a consortium of Chinese investors had tabled a £1.65bn takeover bid for McLaren – an offer that was presented to the company’s board by Mr Dennis but rejected by his fellow investors.
The F1 team has won a string of drivers’ and constructors’ championships, although a recent collaboration with engine-maker Honda has failed to produce competitive results.
2017 has turned into another bitterly disappointing season for the F1 team, which boasts former World Champion Fernando Alonso among its drivers.
Although its F1 team’s performance has been lacklustre in recent years, its road-car business is expected to produce a record 4,000 vehicles this year.
Its Applied Technologies Group has also led to partnerships with companies such as GlaxoSmithKline and KPMG.
News of the Chinese bid – which sources suggested at the time could attract Government scrutiny if it progressed further, given McLaren’s world-class technology – came weeks after Apple was reported to have made an approach to buy the Woking-based company.
Since Mr Dennis’s departure, Zak Brown has replaced him at the helm of MTG, while Mike Flewitt has been appointed to run McLaren Automotive.
A spokesman for Mr Dennis declined to comment while McLaren could not be reached for comment.
Source: Sky News