McLaren revs up board with appointment of former Rolls-Royce chief

28 May 2024, 08:18 | Updated: 28 May 2024, 10:21

The British supercar maker McLaren Group has bolstered its board with a trio of appointments including the former boss of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars.

Sky News can reveal that Torsten Muller-Otvos was recruited as a non-executive director of the Surrey-based company earlier this month.

Chaired by the former Diageo chief Paul Walsh, McLaren has also recruited Pierre-Yves Roussel, chief executive of the American luxury lifestyle brand Tory Burch, and Dennis Nobelius, a former Volvo Cars executive, according to filings at Companies House.

The appointments add automotive and luxury goods experience to the McLaren board as the company - which owns a big stake in the Formula One team which bears its brand - shows signs of an improvement in its financial performance.

One automotive industry sources said the appointment of Mr Muller-Otvos, who retired from Rolls-Royce - which is a separate company to the aircraft engine manufacturer of the same name - was a coup for McLaren.

Last year, McLaren recorded a record loss of more than £870m as it completed a recapitalisation of its balance sheet led by Mumtalakat, Bahrain's sovereign wealth fund.

Mumtalakat has now taken full ownership of the group, although it is engaged in talks about technology partnerships which could lead to the sale of a minority equity stake in McLaren.

The automotive group recorded a £375m non-cash impairment charge in 2023 to reflect asset writedowns relating to production problems.

In the first quarter of the 2024 financial year, however, McLaren reported its best quarter for nearly five years, with an underlying profit of £3m on revenues, which rose by 52%.

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McLaren, whose road car models include the Artura Spider, P1 and Senna, has seen some of its former shareholders taking warrants that would benefit from a future "liquidity event" such as an initial public offering or sale of the company.

McLaren Racing, the division which directly houses the F1 and other racing operations, has its own external shareholders following a deal struck during the pandemic.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the company was forced into a far-reaching restructuring that saw hundreds of jobs axed and substantial sums raised in equity and debt to repair its balance sheet.

Its finances became so strained that it repeatedly tapped Mumtalakat for new funding, as well as striking a sale-and-leaseback deal for its Woking headquarters.

In 2021, it also sold McLaren Applied Technologies, which generates revenue from sales to corporate customers.

Founded in 1963 by Bruce McLaren, the group's name is among the most famous in British motorsport.

During half a century of competing in F1, it has won the constructors' championship eight times, while its drivers have included the likes of Mika Hakkinen, Lewis Hamilton, Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna.

In total, the team has won 180 Grands Prix, three Indianapolis 500s and the Le Mans 24 Hours on its debut.

The company saw its separate divisions reunited following the departure in 2017 of Ron Dennis, the veteran McLaren boss who had steered its F1 team through the most successful period in its history.

Mr Dennis offloaded his stake in a £275m deal following a bitter dispute with fellow shareholders.

McLaren declined to comment further on the board appointments.