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Ron Dennis and The Usual Suspects

NEWS STORY
29/02/2008

On the night of January 17, 1998, Matt Drudge, the original internet blogger, revealed that Newsweek editors had killed a story about US President Bill Clinton and a young intern named Monica Lewinsky.

His story ended once and for all the gate-keeper ability, if not the mentality, of the mainstream media. He was later to say: "We are all newsmen now."

Yesterday, it was Matt Drudge who broke the story regarding Prince Harry, revealing that the British Prince has been serving with the British Army in Afghanistan for the last ten weeks.

For many, Matt is something of a hero, a true internet legend who has helped to turn journalism on its head, particularly that of the mainstream media. As Pitpass editor Chris Balfe once said; "the internet allows us all to become publishers, sadly, that can be a good thing and a bad thing".

This week, there has been an on-line frenzy following a report in a Spanish newspaper which claimed that Ron Dennis was to be "sacked" by McLaren. Within hours, the usual suspects had picked up on the 'story', though none of them made the obvious move of checking the basic facts with either McLaren or Mercedes-Benz. Then again, why let a few facts stand in the way of a great headline… "Ron Dennis Fired!".

The fact is that Ron Dennis cannot be sacked, he is not a mere employee who can be handed a juicy cheque and sent off to tender his garden for the next couple of years. Dennis, who bought into McLaren at the end of 1980, still owns a 15% slice of the company, as does Mansour Ojjeh. The deal is that neither man can sell his shares, or even a proportion of them, without the agreement of the other, and even then, both must sell the same amount.

It was about a year ago, long before the spy saga, that the duo seriously rankled Mercedes-Benz by selling a total of 30% of their shares to Bahrain's Mumtalakat Holding Company, which leaves the German manufacturer with the remaining 40%.

As a source tells The Guardian's Alan Henry: "What the critics don't seem to understand is that Ron can't just be fired. He is not a simple employee. He is a shareholder in the company and enjoys the complete confident support of all our investors, Mansour Ojjeh, Mercedes-Benz and the Bahrain government. He has been under a lot of pressure recently but he is in fine form and raring to go."

There is no arguing that Ron has lived a nightmare over the last twelve months, both on and off the track. However, he's faced hard times before, and at least has the comfort of knowing that unlike the kid that flips the burgers in his local McDonald's, he cannot be told to clear his locker, hand in his badge and collect his final cheque... despite what the usual suspects might say.

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