Ross Brawn, Justin King and Martin Whitmarsh are among McLaren’s targets to replace Ron Dennis, whose position as chairman is under threat.
Insiders say Dennis will leave at the end of the year following a decision to remove him by his fellow shareholders.
The company has not yet made a decision on who would replace the 69-year-old.
But Brawn, the ex-Mercedes F1 boss, King, former head of Sainsbury’s, and Whitmarsh, sacked by Dennis as McLaren team principal in 2014, are contenders.
However, it remains to be seen whether any of the three ends up with the job, as it would be an appealing position for senior executives and other names are almost certain to be on the list.
McLaren have said in a statement that Dennis is “not stepping down”.
But that does not rule out him being replaced at the end of the year, when his contract is believed to run out.
Dennis has run McLaren since 1981 and has made it into one of Formula 1’s most successful teams, and now a leading manufacturer of high-end sports cars for the road.
But he has for some time had an uncomfortable relationship with fellow shareholder Mansour Ojjeh – who, like Dennis, owns 25% of the McLaren Group.
The remaining 50% is owned by the Bahraini royal family through their Mumtalakat investment fund.
McLaren’s statement added: “[Dennis] remains contracted as chairman and chief executive officer of McLaren Technology Group, and he retains a 25% shareholding in the Group – exactly equal to that of Mansour Ojjeh.
“Over many years, many decades in fact, McLaren shareholders have often entered into dialogue on the subject of potential equity movements and realignments, and Ron and Mansour have always been central to those discussions.
“That is still the case. Their recent conversations can therefore be categorised as ‘more of the same’.
“However, it would be inappropriate to reveal further details of such discussions, which are of course private and confidential.”
Dennis has for some time been trying to raise the capital to buy a controlling interest in McLaren but has not managed to do so.
Speculation has swirled about his position for a number of years as a result of this situation, but Dennis has so far managed to remain in his role at the helm of the company.
Insiders say Ojjeh and the Bahrainis have now decided to make their move but it remains to be seen whether they manage carry it through.