McLaren marketing head Sami leaves after 35 years

2017 F1 season

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McLaren’s head of marketing Ekrem Sami, has left the after 35 years with the team.

Sami was a key part of the team’s successful growth in the early eighties with Ron Dennis, attracting support from brands some of which remained with the team for decades.

Following a brief stint at Lotus he returned to McLaren in 1988 and had remained there ever since. However he stood down from the McLaren board in December when Dennis lost his position as CEO.

Sami said 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.”

“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.”

McLaren executive director Zak Brown said Ekrem was “a McLaren man through and through”.

“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.”

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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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  • 20 comments on “McLaren marketing head Sami leaves after 35 years”

    1. Good grief

      Which Grand Prix will Alonso make it to?

      1. @dimsim
        All of them, they are getting rid of Ron’s men, I think Alonso proved he didn’t quite met that category :)

    2. You know, more and more people are leaving the team. This is starting to worry me a bit. Is it just a matter of cleaning out the old Ron Dennis era McLaren, or is McLaren in actual trouble?

      1. @chrischrill
        I think it’s the former, with a splash of the latter. The second Dennis era has been a disaster for the team, so that a thorough cleanup sounds like the most sensible option.

        1. It has not been a disaster. Whitmarsh era was.
          Martin ruined an once super competitive team, Ron simply fired him too late.

          1. @liko41, I’m afraid that I have to disagree with your opinion and agree with nase that Ron has ultimately been a detriment to the team in recent years.

            For example, it was Ron Dennis who took the decision to reject Johnnie Walker’s offer to become their title sponsor for the rate of £43 million a year in 2013, even though it would have been one of the largest title sponsorship deals in the sport in recent years. Instead, his intransigence ended up costing the team the £15 million a year that they received from Johnnie Walker after Diageo, the parent company, tired of Ron’s intransigence and stopped sponsoring the team.

            Equally, it was Ron who pushed Honda to enter a year earlier than they wanted to, even though he was warned that it would result in an underdeveloped engine, because his main focus was on expunging Mercedes’s association with the team as quickly as possible. Having acceded to his demands, Ron’s behaviour since then has only made the relationship between McLaren and Honda much worse (refusing to acknowledge technical issues at the team when, in private, most of McLaren’s engineers and even much of the senior management was prepared to acknowledge the faults that Ron would not, indeed could not, admit to).

            Ron may have been great in the past but, in the time of his second takeover, he failed to deliver on what he had promised he would do – Ron’s decisions ended up costing the team sponsors instead of gaining them, whilst on a technical front he failed to secure all of the technical staff that he has promised he would bring to the team.

            1. So he’s the new Bernie basically?

            2. Thanks anon, that’s a good summary.

          2. I’d rather Whitmarsh than Dennis, to be frank.

            1. Frank prefers Claire

        2. I am inclined to believe the seeds of McLaren’s situation were sown in Dennis era #1, when McLaren inadequetely prepared for the 2009 regulations. Yes, it managed to get back into the midfield before that season ended, but it was a shock the structure of that time could not fully repair, and which neither Whitmarsh nor Dennis #2 eras was able to resolve. It still feels like fundamentally the same team as it was at the end of 2009, for all the changes; a strong midfielder contender when it isn’t tripping over its own feet, but too prone to getting in its own way and without the necessary partnerships (financial and technical) to return to the top tier.

    3. I’m always wary of people, regardless of business, that stay in post for that amount of time. Loyalty is one thing but to its very rare to find people at the top of their game that stick to one business for that amount of time.

      Looking at the previous marketing output from McL its been appalling, hopefully some new blood can wake it up.

    4. Let’s hope McLaren do a Ferrari in 2015.

    5. Are McLaren in danger of forgetting that these are the men that made the team what it is, the second most successful in the the sport’s history? Mass firings, livery change and car name change! At this point I’m surprised it’s still McLaren Honda .This reboot had better produce results pronto otherwise I see a lot of tears in their future. They should be seen to be fighting for the podium in the first few races. What must Alonso be thinking? The team that he hired for is essentially gone. If things don’t look promising in the first few races this could conceivably be his last year in F1. Either that or he can hope that Hamilton vs Bottas is so one sided and so boring in Hamilton’s favour that even Toto would be ashamed to do anything else but hire him.

      1. Yeah, Alonso is losing his sleep becuase the head of marketing of the team left.

      2. I dont think Alonso mind that the team he got hired for is largely gone. Creating memes in folding chairs is all good but i belive he wanna prove himself a final time before he quits F1

    6. The purge continues. First Ron, then Jost and now this guy. How does Eric Boullier keep his job?

      1. Hes good at taking corporate orders.

    7. “key part of the team’s successful growth in the early eighties”

      No doubt once probably an excellent marketing expert.. Just like Bernie, or Ron.. Or all the heroes of yesteryear.

      I hope he enjoys retirement after F1.

      As for McLaren they need to refresh their. Staff… Look at Mercedes, they hardly have anyone aged over 50. Red Bull similar. Horner is what 40?

      Marketing people should be age 25-40… 40 being senior staff, keeping creative youth in check. McLaren need to bring in some youthful spirit they had in said 80s.

      Back when they were 20-30 something old and getting sheit done. Not now coorporate bickering…

    8. Time for these dinosaurs to retire.

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