Zak Brown, McLaren, 2016

Zak Brown to join McLaren as executive director

2016 F1 season

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McLaren has confirmed Zak Brown will join the company as executive director following the ousting of Ron Dennis last week.

According to the team Brown will play “a significant part of a restructuring programme” intended to “align the group’s commercial and strategic operations relating to achieving success in Formula One”.

Brown will lead the business along with chief operating officer Jonathan Neale. The company is still looking to hire a new chief executive officer.

“I’m immensely proud to be joining McLaren Technology Group,” said Brown. “I have the utmost respect and admiration for what the business has achieved to date, and I look forward to contributing to the next important phase in its development.”

“Having worked closely with McLaren for many years, I’ve been struck by the talent and ambition of the entire workforce, and I very much look forward to complementing the business’s many existing strengths, and building on them to drive future success in everything we do.

“As founder of Just Marketing International (JMI) – now the world’s largest motorsport marketing agency – I’ve often worked closely with McLaren as I say, and I’ve developed some excellent relationships across the company. Together we’ve delivered some great sponsorship deals, including Johnnie Walker, GSK, Hilton, Lenovo, Chandon and NTT.

“Best of all, in my new role I’ll be able to combine my absolute passion with my unparalleled area of expertise – respectively motorsport and marketing – while ensuring that the two stay totally aligned.”

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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  • 29 comments on “Zak Brown to join McLaren as executive director”

      1. & What?

        Not CEO, but something like head of Marketing and Strategy with a seat on the Board.
        Seems like a convoluted way to get a title sponsor.

        1. exactly, after Zak Brown McLaren continues to look for a new chief executive officer for the group.

    1. Great coup for McLaren Leaves the door wide open for Ross Brawn at Liberty.

      1. ^ This. Better the engineer than a marketer to shape the future of F1.

      2. Nonsense, FOM badly needs someone who understands marketing to run the shop of PROMOTING the sport @mad-eric, @phylyp. And what is more, they surely were not in each other’s way in any case, because the new owners will not replace Bernie with a new dictator, but get a team of people working together @tenerifeman, so they could have Brown looking at how to get both sponsors and get to fans, and Brawn working on making a solid package from the engineering side (more stable rules, better thought out and longer term planned changes etc.) with another 1-2 people to do the deals with the race promotors etc.

    2. spafrancorchamps
      21st November 2016, 19:40

      As a McLaren fan I’m totally unsatisfied with the recent changes the team has made. I was finally getting the feeling that they were on the way up, but with Dennis being fired and Brown replacing him, I am afraid that he will want to make changes within the organisation that will hold the team back. They have had a company restructure two years ago, and it takes time to see the result of changes like that. If Brown would like to make an impact (which new CEO’s often do), McLaren will be starting from zero all over again. And then again, Zak has a lot of experience at the commercial perspective of business, but he has got no clue of running a Formula 1 team. How will that unfold?

      Dumping Ron Dennis is in my opinion an unforgivable mistake, which is purely based on a personal vendetta between the shareholders. As odd as Ron might appear as a person, without him, McLaren would not be existing at all, let alone be one of the most succesful teams in the history of F1. Don’t forget it is not just the F1 team, but also the road car company that he has build and developed into a highly profitable business. He is a McLaren legend, and a Formula 1 icon. You don’t through someone like that out of hthe company he build, just because you don’t like him. You cherish a person like that, and treat him with the respect he has rightfully deserved.

      My love for McLaren has taken a huge hit due to these developments. One part of me would still want nothing else than to see McLaren on the top step again, the other part of me wouldn’t care less to see the team go through the drain just to see these shareholders take huge losses on their investment.

      Selling the majority of the company’s shares, is the biggest mistake Dennis has made, and something only he can take blame for. Williams in that matter, took a wiser decision to hold the majority when they sold their company shares.

      We’ll have to see how things will unfold. I am not too optimistic, but regardless of the outcome, this entire situation is a big shame and as a big fan of the team, I am honestly angry about it.

      1. My thoughts exactly

      2. As Ron said many times, “F1 team is designed to win races, not earn money”. This appointment seems like a u turn regarding that philosophy. Personally, I don’t like managers from America trying to run companies in European automotive industry. Take GM for example. Every new manager from US was just another set of knives in the back of their brands. Not to mention what it meant for SAAB. It will take years if not decades to win back positions on the market and the reputation they had in the past. The American way doesn’t hold water in European automotive industry. Hopefully Ron will pull something off and regain the control before it’s to late.

      3. The Blade Runner (@)
        22nd November 2016, 11:23


        Likewise, I’m a huge McLaren fan but I take the opposite view!

        Brown is an F1 marketing machine and will be a great asset to McLaren. They are still looking to recruit a CEO and that is the position that is likely to be the key to all of this. A new CEO that brings experience, gravitas and real vision, coupled with Brown, Neale and Boullier, would result in a very strong “team” to take McLaren forwards.

        Ron Dennis is a legend and he was instrumental in McLaren enjoying huge success. Unfortunately those successes are getting further and further into the past. He has made a number or poor decisions in recent years (e.g. suggesting that Hamilton would have to take a pay cut to stay with McLaren; lying about the Alonso “electric shock”; false confidence/arrogance re: the new “size zero” car etc etc). It makes sense to at least try to move on and find a different way of achieving success. The loss of Ross Brawn certainly hasn’t hindered Mercedes despite their apparent “too many cooks” structure.

        Time will tell whether this is a good thing. In the meantime at least it shakes McLaren up and shows a willingness to move forward. Brown’s arrival should also increase revenue streams which can be spent right now on getting further up the grid.

        1. Zack Brown is a just one piece of the puzzle, but an exceptionally talented one at that. McLaren deserve to have a major sponsor stickered onto the side of the car and that is a huge reason why he was hired.

          Peter Windsor did a 4-part interview with him a bit back, and this dudes no stranger to the sport, he is intimate with F1 and truly passionate. Hes not someone looking to climb a ladder, hes already standing on the top rung. I imagine it was a lot more about F1 chasing him to come on board than the other way around.

    3. Not sure who he is still…..and not much been said about what the race team are doing for the future…..
      Ron lost a lot of board confidence with the switch to Honda…(think he went with them a year too early)…..revenue now from the team must be a pittance…….but I have over the years admired his determination and feel he will not be walking away from the sport just yet……

    4. McLaren doesn’t need a new team principle in the more traditional sense. They have Éric Boullier running races. They need a commercial negotiator and business strategist.

      When you look at the way Red Bull and now Mercedes have split running the teams between a technical guru and a business specialist I can understand this decision.

      McLaren needs someone who is going to negotiate sponsors, staff and supplier deals, and during their decline get them the best deal from the sports commerical entity.

      1. He will rake in tonnes of sponsors i am sure. But the vision for the team just wont be there. Red bull have Matechitz, Mercedes lost brawn but a blueprint was laid, ferrari lost Luca not sure about Marchinne, Vijay for FI, Frank williams for his team. Top teams need visionaries and that was Ron Dennis.

    5. Yep. Commerce 101…….

      Things aren’t looking all that flash so let’s add another executive to the ranks and have strategy meetings for the next year.

      So sad to see one of the real racing teams fall so far and now being crushed from the inside by non racing executives & shareholders.

    6. He is a marketing guy.. So basically McLaren’s Arrivabene.. Except he is not the team principal he is an executive directory of the whole thing…
      I have a bad feeling about this…

      1. Mick Nicholson
        22nd November 2016, 3:24

        Until they appoint a CEO, it is unclear what Zak Brown’s role really is.

      2. To everyone who denounces Zak Brown as “just a marketing guy” go and listen to the series of interviews he did a month or so back with Peter Windsor. In those he talked a bit about his vision for F1 as a whole, and it shows he knows his business. It is VERY far from an Arrivabene, who might have been in the sport for long, but largely as Marlboro’s prime lobbyist with Bernie/FOM and without any clear forward vision.

        And he is a racer as well, racing himself and operating a team too. I am sure that he is not the guy to want to throw everything out of the window that is there and make it “his” just because either. I agree that it is hugely sad that Dennis and the other share holders fell out and that ended in Dennis leaving the company. But, I think we should give Zak a chance to show what he can contribute to McLaren.

        1. Exactly @bascb.

          Very surprised to see so many negative comments about this, Brown is a great hire for McLaren. He’s sharp, he knows their business and he is a motorsport man through and through.

        2. @bascb Agreed. I saw it too. The guy can be likeable but the most important is that he’s deep in the business for quite some time and seem passionate. He could be a bad choice but let’s hope he’ll do a good job. I wouldn’t trash him beforehand.

    7. Can someone enlighten me? He was the owner and CEO of motosport network right? But also owner of a commercial marketing agency? And now works for McLaren? Sounds like an awful lot of hats for one man to wear, surely there have to be conflicts?

      1. He’s non-executive chairman within the Motorsport/Autosport network and only takes care of part of the business side of things, so his involvement is fairly limited. As for his involvement in JMI, that will come to a complete stop in December 2016. He decided to step down as CEO earlier this year in order to get into the racing business full time, hence the sudden interest from McLaren and Liberty. So not too many hats to wear after all and no conflicts of interest either.

        I think it is a great move from McLaren. He knows the ins and outs of F1; is a cunning business man; knows how to bargain a deal, commercially or other; he’s well regarded and respected inside the paddock and he has, imho, a very refreshing and modern view on F1, its future and how to get there realistically. He’s also able to express that vision in human language rather then in Ron Speak ;) He happens to be a proper petrol head and believes that fans and their experience are the key to success. As far as I understand, he’s not the new Ron Dennis, but more of an addition to the Group taking care of some aspects of Dennis’ job, especially the commercial and marketing side. With his skills and connections, we can expect a fair bit of extra stickers on the McLaren race car next season. And with extra stickers, come extra means, etc etc.

    8. I was hoping he would run IndyCar some day. I guess F1 is the goal when Bernie goes.

    9. Some good interview by Peter Windsor with Zack Brown

      1. Thanks Will…a good article by Autosport…..there is a lot of name dropping and Zak clearly is a very busy man…and I suggest. he.” talks a good talk” but lets give time and see what he manages to deliver….if he is as good as his CV….

    10. Guys, his (Zac Brown) appointment is as Executive Director who’s main role will be on the commercial side. He has not replaced Ron Dennis as CEO. With Josh Capito recently joining from VW as CEO of the F1 team, that’s one heck of an executive wage bill. Whilst we’re on this subject, i would imagine that Josh would not be entirely unhappy with Ron’s removal – at least he can now get on with his job without the omnipresent Dennis at his shoulder…

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