Thursday, March 04, 2010


Ron Dennis

The single most impressive business person I have ever met has been Ron Dennis. I had lunch with him in early 2004, when he was then still heading the McLaren Mercedes Racing Team, with enormous success. I was still (just) at the Science Museum at the time, and we were meeting to discuss some possible joint ventures, as well as for me to sound him out about some further financial support for the museum.

What impressed me about Ron Dennis was what I can only describe as "controlled intensity". He was immaculate as always, courteous, a charming and easy conversationalist. He was also, it was clear, a completely driven perfectionist, from big picture down to smallest detail. His business had extended into non-motor racing areas such as catering and hi-fi largely because he had never found a third party supplier capable of matching the uncompromising standards he set for these things. It was easy to see how he had built Mclaren into the force it was in Formula One, and easy too to understand how he could rub some of the other strong personalities in the sport the wrong way. I didn't get the sense of a rampant ego with Ron Dennis, just a complete clarity of purpose, intense self-discipline and an immense will to succeed.

We spoke a lot about his concern to give young people opportunities, particularly in education, and the (unsung) work he was doing in that area. I liked him a lot, and throughout the "cheating" debacle that dogged McLaren a couple of years later I still felt that Ron Dennis was an intrinsically honourable man. His will to succeeed may have led others to do unscrupulous things, but I don't believe Dennis himself would ever have wanted it that way for a moment.

Oh, and he paid for lunch!


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