LONDON (Reuters) - Any eventual replacement for commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone should be recruited from outside Formula One, according to McLaren group chief executive Ron Dennis.
Ecclestone, the 83-year-old British billionaire who has run the sport for decades in his own autocratic style, is facing trial in Germany on bribery charges and has no obvious successor.
Christian Horner, the 40-year-old team principal of champions Red Bull, is close to Ecclestone and has been mooted as a possible candidate, although both Britons have played down such speculation.
Ferrari president Luca di Montzemolo has dismissed the suggestion of Horner taking over as a joke and Dennis told Sky Sports television there would be too much of a conflict of interest.
“Personally, and I have nothing against either Christian or any other team principal, I don’t think it would be a wise decision to put any former team principal into the position of running Formula One,” Dennis said. “There’s too much conflict.
“I think the sport now is more than mature enough to be able to cope with a very competent business person who has to learn Formula One as opposed to a Formula One person that has to learn how to run Formula One.
“I’d rather take the challenge of a hugely experienced chief executive that’s got the depth that’s needed to run such a complex sport,” added the Briton, whose position includes overseeing the McLaren F1 team.
Formula One has a unique business model, with the rights owner earning fees from circuits, television deals and sponsors for annual revenues of around $1.5 billion. Private equity group CVC Capital Partners has a 35.5 percent stake in the sport.
The 19-race season starting in Australia next week travels around the world with races in Asia, the Middle East, Europe and North and South America.
Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Ed Osmond