Ekrem Sami, McLaren Honda’s long-time marketing figurehead, is leaving the company after 35 years of service.
Sami was one of the lead figures associated with former team principal and CEO Ron Dennis, having entered professional motorsport as Dennis’ personal assistant during his Project Four Racing days.
When Project Four and McLaren merged in 1980, Sami joined what then became known as McLaren International and was assigned the role of the team’s sponsorship manager.
He left McLaren to join Lotus in 1985, with one of his chief sponsorship deals being the team’s signing of RJ Reynolds’ Camel brand as the replacement title sponsor to the outfit’s longstanding John Player association.
Tempted back to McLaren in 1988, Sami was offered the responsibilities of handling McLaren’s entire marketing services division. The role oversaw the team’s ongoing sponsorship wheeling and dealing, but also the team’s public relations and media teams as well.
Sami and his team successfully negotiated a number of major sponsorship deals with leading lifestyle and technology brands. Of late, however, the team’s fortunes have waned and a succession of sponsors have left the team to join rival outfits.
When Dennis was shown the door in a shareholder coup and forced to relinquish his post towards the end of 2016, few expected Sami would remain on for long under the team’s new management.
Images via McLaren Honda