PEOPLE: MANSOUR OJJEH

Name: Mansour Ojjeh
Nationality: France/Saudi Arabia

Ojjeh is the son of Akram Ojjeh, a Syrian-born Saudi Arabian entrepreneur who carefully cultivated connections in Middle Eastern governments by acting as an intermediary in arms dealing. He avoided publicity as much as he could but hit the headlines when he purchased the liner Le France.

Mansour's mother was French and he spent much of his childhood in France although he also attended schools in America, graduating in 1974. Three years later Akram Ojjeh established Techniques d'Avant Garde, an investment firm specializing in commercial activities between Europe and Middle East.

Mansour's passion for motor racing was sparked by a visit to the Monaco Grand Prix in 1978, as a guest of the Saudi royal family - which owned Saudia Airlines, Williams's sponsor at the time. Ojjeh's enthusiasm for the sport led to TAG becoming the Williams team's principal sponsor in 1979. The influx of capital enabled Patrick Head to build competitive machinery and Williams scored its first F1 victory at Silverstone in 1979. Alan Jones then won the World Championship in 1980 and Keke Rosberg following suit in 1982.

At the end of 1981 McLaren's Ron Dennis approached Mansour Ojjeh with the intention of luring him to McLaren as a partner rather than a sponsor. Ojjeh saw the logic in the argument and agreed to invest $5m in a Porsche-built turbo engine. Ojjeh and Dennis established TAG Turbo Engines and in September 1982 announced the new engine. It was unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show in early 1983 and raced for the first time at the Dutch GP in August. The following year McLaren-TAG drivers Niki Lauda and Alain Prost dominated the World Championship, scoring 12 wins in 16 races. At the end of the year Ojjeh became the majority shareholder in McLaren, although the deal was not made public until March 1985.

The TAG/McLaren empire grew steadily in the late 1980s as more successes followed with Honda engines and they diversified into TAG Electronics and TAG/McLaren Marketing and McLaren Cars. The main TAG empire continued to expand in many different businesses with investments in agriculture, construction, aviation and even art and antiques.

Print