Dennis’s 35-year love affair with the McLaren Formula One racing team ended in acrimony last November. The former chairman and chief executive was looking to sell the business to a Chinese consortium for £1.6bn but other shareholders were opposed to the move and he was forced to step down. Dennis joined F1 as an apprentice mechanic and took the reins at McLaren in 1981, mentoring world champions Niki Lauda, Alain Prost, Ayrton Senna, Mika Hakkinen and Lewis Hamilton (qv).
He would still have been licking his wounds from the McLaren spat when he and David Beckham (qv) had a run-in over seating at a New Year’s Eve show in the exclusive Maldives resort of Amilla Fushi. The former England captain and guests were there to watch his wife Victoria and then 11-year-old son Cruz sing. Dennis and an entourage of 30 reportedly spilt over from their own table allocation into the area that Beckham had reserved for his family and that of chef Gordon Ramsay. When asked by Beckham’s staff to move, Dennis, 69, is said to have replied: “I’ve paid the most money on the island, I deserve to sit here.” Beckham was reported to have confronted him, before being calmed as other seats were found. Peace was declared the next day when Dennis apologised.
His stake in Woking-based McLaren is worth £400m on the back of the abortive £1.6bn Chinese valuation. He is chairman of McLaren Automotive, which makes high-performance sports cars such as the £866,000 P1 and showed sharply higher net assets of £335m in 2015. We add £50m for his stake here and other interests.