In Memory

Mansour Ojjeh

Mansour Ojjeh

Mansour Ojjeh, 25 September 1952 - 6 June 2021

Mansour Ojjeh, one of the driving forces behind McLaren and a main shareholder since the early 1980s, has died at the age of 68.

Although he shunned the limelight, the visionary Mansour helped to develop the McLaren brand into the powerful entity it is today. By providing input into all the key strategic decisions made by the company over the decades and by which have seen it expand far beyond its roots as a Formula 1 team.

Mansour followed in the entrepreneurial footsteps of his father Akram Ojjeh. Born in Syria, Ojjeh Sr won a physical education scholarship in France, where he subsequently married his wife Irene. Akram established his credentials as a businessman and industrialist, involved in areas such as construction, real estate and airlines, dealing mainly between France and Saudi Arabia. 

He was granted citizenship by the latter country, and was awarded the Legion d’Honneur by the former. In 1975, he founded TAG Group, an acronym of Techniques d’Avant Garde, as a holding company for his many investments.

Mansour studied at the American School in Paris, and then earned a business degree at Menlo College in northern California. He later studied law at the University of Santa Clara, before switching courses and earning a master’s in business administration.

The Ojjeh family and TAG Group first became involved in motor racing in 1978. That same year, Saudia Airlines sponsored the Williams team, and several other Saudi-related corporate names soon appeared on the car, including TAG. 

In 1979, TAG Group became a main Williams sponsor, with Mansour as the company’s familiar representative in the paddock, along with his younger brother Aziz. 

In 1980, Alan Jones gave Williams its first world championship while proudly carrying the TAG logo. Keke Rosberg scored a second title victory in 1982.

Although he enjoyed being part of the success as a Williams sponsor, Mansour’s vision and ambitions for TAG Group helped build what McLaren is today. With an investment to fund the development of a new turbo engine, TAG Turbo Engines was created. The TAG engine first appeared in the back of a McLaren in a grand prix in August 1983, with Niki Lauda urging Porsche and the team to fast track its development. 

It was honed so quickly that in 1984 Lauda and his new team-mate Alain Prost dominated the world championship, and the TAG name became synonymous with that success. Lauda won the title by half a point at the season finale in Portugal, and Mansour hosted a spectacular celebration for the Austrian that evening.

By the end of the 1984 season, Ojjeh had scaled down TAG’s involvement as a sponsor of Williams and agreed to invest in McLaren, and he became a major shareholder.

The TAG engine earned two more world championships with Prost in 1985 and 1986, and it was still winning races in 1987, in the face of stiff competition from Williams and Honda. At the end of that season the TAG engines were retired from service, never to be used again in any form of competition. 

From 1988, McLaren had a new engine partner in Honda, a new team-mate for Prost in the form of Ayrton Senna. Mansour and TAG remained key players in the organisation through the remarkable Honda era, contributing to four more world championships shared between two of the greatest drivers in history between 1988 and 1991.

Some difficult years followed Honda’s departure, and Mansour played a role in the decision to join forces with Mercedes for the 1995 season. It was the start of a new era for the team. Mika Häkkinen would win the world championship in 1998 and 1999, while Lewis Hamilton would add another title in 2008.

A man with great vision, Mansour supported the expansion of McLaren’s interests. He founded TAG Electronics, which became a major supplier to the motorsport and motoring industry, and was later renamed McLaren Electronics, and now supplies ECUs to all F1, INDYCAR and NASCAR teams.

He was one of the driving forces behind the birth of the McLaren F1 road car, having first had the idea of creating the ultimate supercar while still involved with Williams in the Eighties. Although not originally conceived as a racer, the F1 GTR would win Le Mans in 1995.

In 2010, he backed the founding of McLaren Automotive, kick-starting the marque’s hugely successful return to road car production. He also actively supported the creation of McLaren Applied Technologies.

Mansour also had many interests and investments outside McLaren. The TAG name gained further international recognition when he bought watch company and McLaren timing partner Heuer in 1985. He would build TAG Heuer into a major international brand, before selling the company in 1999.

He also founded TAG Aviation, a major supplier of charter jet services worldwide, and bought the UK’s Farnborough Airport, along with a string of other business interests.

In 2013, Mansour underwent a double lung transplant, having suffered with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. He recovered well, and far from slowing down, he became even more involved with McLaren by taking on an executive role in early 2017.

Mansour is survived by his wife Kathy, a remarkable supporter of McLaren on and off the grid, and their four children, Lana, Lia, Sara and Sultan.

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06/13/21 12:39 PM #1    

Sally Perry (Pemrick)

I was so sad to read of Mansour's passing. He was my 10th Grade boyfriend and was always such a gentleman. I was happy to read of his great business success and his happy family life. Go in peace my friend.

06/13/21 08:25 PM #2    

Bob Triulzi

So,so sad to hear about my really good friend Mansour's passing, especially after a great progression and recuperation from his double lung transplant. I remember well our times together, at school, on the soccer team and more importantly out of school. His mother was a sweet and supportive women of Mansour and his friends, especially those she liked. I remember his father well and sitting in their living room on various occasions listening in awe to him explain to us the basics of business practice and acumen. You can say he was my first "business professor! With tears in my eyes, I will always hold a place in my heart for Mansour and will cherish the memories with him. Left us too early. May God bless him and his family.

07/05/21 09:51 PM #3    

Jonathan Mayo

It appears that Mansour had an exciting and full life. I remember being taken for quite an exciting ride in a mini Cooper around Paris; which explains his love of car racing. I also remember his keen sense of observation, his aliveness, and love of adventure as a young man.  Sorry to hear the news.

07/06/21 10:25 AM #4    

Robert Leslie

I had no idea about Mansour's McLaren career, but it's no surprise he did well for himself. Mansour was a fascinating guy in our junior year. His wealthy dad gave the kids many advantages early in life and Mansour seemd to live in two worlds. He really liked going out at night and very generously took some friends to a private disco/night club after Le Presbourg and other bars had closed. I remember he was very sharp, quick with a funny or clever remark, sometimes a bit cutting, but never mean. 

That year Mansour, Rod Kirkland, a couple other guys and I went to London for a wild and almost sleepless weekend. He pretty much took control of nightlife and led us around Carnaby St, Bond St. and Picidilli, where I bought a green blazer I thought was so cool, (it wasn't). We had so much fun and I wouldn't change a thing about that weekend.

Fond farewell, Mansour.


07/07/21 06:38 PM #5    

Paul Asaban

What incredibly sad news...a good friend gone. I just cried...couldn't help it. Mansour my friend...What great times we had together! That great house with the underground garage (didn't it even have a car wash???) and dinners with his family...his Dad's great stories. The one about the Sheikh and the San Pelligrino - never forget that one! Mansour and I spoke as often in French as we did English...just the way we were. How many beers did we share together...countless, joyful ones. Always so full of life and that amazing smile. And yeah...we talked cars even then. The need for speed!! Not surprised to hear of his career....wonderful story. Too soon, mon ami....beaucoup trop tot. Si triste...dors bien Mansour. 


03/09/23 12:19 AM #6    

Paul Schute

I wanted to to add a note of remembrance regarding Mansour. I recall he was one of the funniest and friendliest students at ASP. In a way we were both a bit cultural “outsiders”, though in effect many of us at ASP were outsiders having moved around different schools and cultures while growing up. He and I occasionally went to each other’s homes, me in the 1st and he in the 16th (bien sûr). I’ll always remember how he once pushed me to buy his (or father’s) ‘68 or ‘69 cherry red Sting Ray with side exhaust pipes, a beast, for $2k. Tried to get my dad to go for it but he was a Ford guy and had just bought a souped up ‘67 GT Mustang which Mansour loved. (I still have the invoice- $2700!) Clearly a foreshadowing of his love for great, iconic cars. Lots of anecdotes including Bardonecchia, Le Presbourg bar and piling into Rod’s Mini Cooper with Bob and Mansour for lunch at L’Entrecôte. 

It’s perhaps not very pc but as most of us are aware he was also known as ‘Camel’ at ASP in the late ‘60s, as indicated in the ‘70 yearbook. He and I kept in contact briefly after graduation and touched base when he went to Menlo College. His younger brother Farid (sp), believe known now as Aziz also went to school there, as did my younger brother to the HS. I went on to Berkeley and he to Santa Clara U. and we slowly lost touch by the late ‘70s. The rest for him is a spectacularly successful career and family story. Rest in peace Mansour, or Camel, a life fully lived. It was great to have been friends during those relatively short, but terrific years.

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