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Dragons chief executive Peter Doust.

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After 18 years as St George Illawarra Dragons chief executive, Peter Doust has announced he will step down at the end of the season.

While Doust's exit may coincide with a change of ownership at the Dragons if WIN Corporation eventually buys the Illawarra Steelers 50 per cent stake in the joint venture, he is leaving on his terms after deciding to retire.

Doust recently informed Dragons chairman Brian Johnston, whom he succeeded as CEO in 2000, of the decision, which he is understood to have been contemplating for some time but only settled on after Christmas.

The NRL's longest-serving club chief executive said he wanted to announce his departure now to give the Dragons time to "determine and implement an appropriate succession plan".

"I made the decision over the holiday break, in consultation with my family, and I wanted to give Brian appropriate notice to allow he and the board, the opportunity to plan for the future," Doust said.

Discussions with WIN Corporation have been ongoing since Doust revealed in December, 2014 that the NRL's first joint venture was open to some form of privatisation but there is no indication about when a decision would be made.

If they were to buy a 50 per cent stake in the club, it has been reported that WIN would assume three of the six seats on the board and want to appoint a new CEO.

"I feel very fortunate and privileged to have been afforded the opportunity to be the CEO of the Dragons and to have had a career in rugby league," Doust said in a statement.

"Essentially after 25 years in health care and 18 years in rugby league, I am at the stage in my life where I would like the time to pursue other interests. Rugby league by its very nature, never stops.

"I have thoroughly enjoyed my time in the role, and am extremely passionate about the club and remain focused on its objectives before I finish up. However, I don't believe that now is the time to reflect on my time at the Dragons."

During his tenure, the Dragons won the first premiership as a merged entity in 2010 and Doust deserves much credit for luring Wayne Bennett to the club 12 months earlier after more than 20 years in charge of the Brisbane Broncos.

He was also responsible for securing government funding to upgrade Jubilee Oval and WIN Stadium, while ensuring a stability at the Dragons that the game's other joint ventures – Wests Tigers and the ill-fated Northern Eagles – never enjoyed.

However, he has been a polarising figure among fans, who mounted a very public "Oust Doust" campaign after the team failed to live up to expectations of a premiership under Nathan Brown in the late 2000s.

A more recent campaign by disgruntled fans at the start of last season also failed and Johnston said Doust deserved "enormous credit" for his leadership in sometimes difficult circumstances.

"I have the highest respect for Peter, his passion, dedication and leadership have been first class," Johnston said.

"His loyalty to the club, the staff and players has always been unwavering and we are very fortunate to have had him leading our club as CEO.

"Rugby league is a very challenging and dynamic environment and he deserves enormous credit for his leadership, trust and resilience. 

"He has always ensured the Dragons' interests were heard and considered at every level of the game and we are grateful that he has given the board appropriate time to consider a replacement and assist with any transition."

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