By Alan Baldwin
ABU DHABI (Reuters) – New McLaren executive director Zak Brown has credited the Formula One team’s ousted veteran boss Ron Dennis for his appointment.
“I text him all the time. Ron at the end of the day is the one who recruited me,” the Californian told reporters at the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, his first race in McLaren uniform.
“The last couple of years he’s left the door open…he turned up the volume in the pursuit of me and I wouldn’t be talking to you right now if it wasn’t for Ron Dennis.”
Dennis, the 69-year-old chairman and chief executive who built McLaren into a world-beating team and sportscar maker, was forced out by other shareholders last week and is now on ‘gardening leave’ until his contract expires in mid-January.
After that, he will remain a 25 percent shareholder and board member but others will run the team.
Brown, a former racer and marketing expert who introduced top brands to Formula One while head of CSM Sport&Entertainment, said McLaren felt like home and it was the right time to join.
He said he would be focused more on “external commercial business” while chief operating officer Jonathan Neale looked after the technical side.
The pair report to an executive committee controlled by Bahrain investment fund Mumtalakat and Saudi-born businessman Mansour Ojjeh.
Brown has emphasized the importance of securing a title sponsor for the first time since 2013 and he said bringing in more quality partners was also a priority, possibly from rivals.
“I’m positive we are going to bring in new partners,” he said. “I’d like to think the well hasn’t run dry and our talent in doing that.
“Everyone at times talks to each other’s sponsors, it’s not unusual to see sponsors move and I don’t think that will be any different.”
Asked how long it would take the Honda-powered team, who have not won a race since 2012, to return to the top, Brown offered no time scale.
“I just hope it’s sooner rather than later,” he said. “I’m going to keep my mouth shut and not make any predictions but we need to get back to winning soon. I think we’re on a good path.”
The American agreed the sport needed to revise its business model following a takeover by U.S. company Liberty Media.
“I think the Super Bowl does an excellent job,” he said. “When they put on a Super Bowl… they come into town a week before, they take over the cities, the airports.
“We’ve got 21 Super Bowls that we put on across the world so I’d like to see that in market.”
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Toby Davis)