A consortium of Chinese investors has tabled a £1.65bn takeover bid for McLaren, the British automotive group which owns the eponymous Formula One (F1) team, sparking a battle over the future of Ron Dennis, its long-serving boss.
Sky News has learnt that Mr Dennis presented the offer for McLaren from a group of unidentified investors last week, a move which prompted his fellow shareholders to launch a plot to oust him as chief executive.
Sources said that Mr Dennis was in the High Court on Thursday and Friday in an attempt to secure an injunction against a move to place him on gardening leave until his contract expires in mid-January.
His move, however, is understood to have been rejected, leading to an emergency board meeting of McLaren being convened on Friday evening that is expected to lead to his immediate suspension as chief executive.
If confirmed, it would place the biggest possible obstacle to the continuation of Mr Dennis’s 36-year career with McLaren, during which time he has transformed into a global technology leader.
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.
Although its F1 team’s performance has been disappointing in recent years, its road-car business is expected to produce a record 4,000 vehicles next year.
Its Applied Technologies Group has also led to partnerships with companies such as GlaxoSmithKline and KPMG.
Tensions have been growing between Mr Dennis, who owns 25% of McLaren Technology Group, and Mansour Ojjeh, a long-term business partner, who also holds 25%.
Both Mr Ojjeh and Mumtalakat, the Bahraini sovereign wealth fund, which owns the remaining 50%, believe that the Chinese bid is undesirable and want Mr Dennis to step down.
Mr Dennis is chairman and chief executive of McLaren Technology Group and chairman of McLaren Automotive, which also has a number of other investors.
News of the Chinese bid – which sources suggested could attract Government scrutiny given McLaren’s world-class technology – comes seven weeks after Apple was reported to have made an approach to buy the Woking-based company.
The Chinese offer is said to involve an asset manager and private equity funding, although the identities of the parties involved was unclear.
Their bid would value McLaren at twice its annual revenues and would include sufficient funding for a new technology centre in Woking, according to insiders.
Neither Mr Dennis nor McLaren would comment, while Mr Ojjeh and Mumtalakat could not be reached for comment on Friday.