McLaren marketing boss Ekrem Sami leaves team

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The CEO of McLaren Marketing, Ekrem Sami, will leave his position, the team announced on Wednesday.

Sami, who had been at McLaren for 35 years, said he had made the decision to move on and would leave the team once he had finished handing over the work he has recently been involved in. He had worked closely with former CEO Ron Dennis in securing commercial partnerships for the team over the last four decades, but said it was time to broaden his horizons beyond Formula One.

"I don't mind admitting that it feels a bit strange to be announcing that I'm moving on from McLaren, the company to which I've devoted almost all my professional life. But now is the right time," Sami said. "However, I'll continue to work on the projects with which I'm already engaged, and I expect to formalise my departure some time in late March.

"Over the past 35 years I've worked with some truly brilliant people, and I want to say thank you to them all. Our successes were a team effort in the most fundamental way. As for my own plans, I'm looking forward to broadening my professional outlook into the wider sports and entertainment sector, after being so immersed in the weird and wonderful world of Formula One."

The arrival last year of motorsport marketing expert Zak Brown as McLaren's executive director raised questions over Sami's future role at the team, but Brown said it had been a privilege to work alongside Sami in recent years.

"Whatever Ekrem chooses to do with the rest of his professional life, I'll always regard him as a McLaren man through and through," Brown said. "His commitment and work ethic remain absolutely second to none, and I feel privileged to have worked with him for so long - not only recently as his McLaren colleague but also, over many years, as his close associate, during my time at Just Marketing International.

"Ekrem and I achieved a lot together, and I don't mind admitting that I learned a hell of a lot from him. His commitment to the McLaren cause has never wavered, and you'd have to look very hard to find a man who works harder than he does.

"Bearing all that in mind, I'm confident that he'll excel in whatever areas he next chooses to ply his trade. He and I will definitely stay in touch, but I'll miss being his colleague. We all will. But we wish him well."

Long-time McLaren shareholder and member of the company's executive committee Mansour Ojjeh added: "I've known Ekrem for 34 years - and, from the moment I first met him, I recognised in him a first-rate commercial mind and an unbelievable determination to succeed.

"Those early days were stressful but exciting - and, when we began to achieve world championship successes in the mid-to-late '80s with the likes of Niki [Lauda], Alain [Prost] and Ayrton [Senna], inevitably it was our superstar drivers and our brilliant engineers who seemed to get the lion's share of the credit. But, behind the scenes, Ekrem's clever but dogged commercial work was just as important.

"Again and again it was Ekrem who would successfully capture the valuable sponsor-partnerships that our rivals so coveted, and as a result we were able to fund the car-development programmes that enabled us to win and win and win again.

"On behalf of all at McLaren, I want to take this opportunity to thank Ekrem for his truly gigantic contribution, and to wish him continued success in the future."