Dragons ownership change a WIN-win for Illawarra and St George
St George Illawarra have announced a new CEO, new chairman and new ownership model but the structure of the club will largely remain unchanged after WIN Corporation purchased the Steelers' stake in the joint venture.
Current Dragons chairman Brian Johnston will replace Peter Doust as CEO, while WIN executive chair Andrew Gordon heads a revamped eight-person board, which includes one director appointed by the Steelers.
The St George Illawarra Dragons name, logo and colours remain unchanged, while the club will continue to play home games at WIN Stadium and Jubilee Oval.
The most significant changes are the repayment of the Dragons' $5.8 million loan to the NRL and a matching funding agreement between St George District Rugby League Football Club and WIN, which ensures the joint venture's ongoing commitment to Illawarra and the South Coast.
The club's Illawarra-based Harold Mathews, SG Ball and Tarsha Gale Cup teams will continue to play under the Steelers' name.
St George Illawarra's partial privatisation ends negotiations that begun almost four years ago for the Wollongong-based broadcaster to take over the Steelers' 50 per cent stake in the club.
Dragons chief executive Peter Doust, who will stand down at the end of the season, said other investors had wanted to buy into the club but the best option was for WIN and the Gordon family to continue their association with Illawarra, which began with the founding of the Steelers in 1982.
"There were a number of people who expressed interest in the possibility of becoming a partner of the Dragons but WIN were always our preferred partner," Doust said.
"They bring a lot to our club and their passion for the Dragons is as strong as it needs to be.
"They have always been with us for many years now, the family and the business. They are expert in broadcasting, their business acumen is exhaustive and I think in particular they will bring to the board table some leadership in business to support Brian in his future role as CEO."
The involvement of WIN will enable the Dragons to move away from a reliance on leagues club funding, while maintaining the proud history and traditions of both Illawarra and St George.
"WIN has long partnered with the Steelers to bring world class rugby league to the Illawarra and we want that legacy to continue," WIN owner Bruce Gordon said.
"We have worked closely with Peter Newell, Bob Millward and Sean O'Connor in particular throughout that time.
"The change of ownership allows us to underpin the amazing heritage of the St George Illawarra Dragons with strong commercial strategy while locking in the pathways for junior players to rise through the ranks of the Steelers to the NRL."
Andrew Gordon, who has been on the Dragons board since 2006, said: "We bring commercial strength, financial stability and we aim to keep world class rugby league in our entire region."
Andrew Lancaster and Craig Osborne will be WIN's other appointments to the board, while Graeme Gulloch will represent the Steelers.
St George appointed the other four directors - Johnston, Ralph Piggott, Craig Young and Peter Black.
Johnston, who played for St George, was the joint venture’s inaugural CEO in 1999 and has since had extensive management experience with companies such as Suncorp, IAG and Office National.
"We had over 98 applicants, which was quite a surprise, but after shortlisting those we took a view that Brian Johnston's qualifications and experience, his passion for the Dragons will bring continuity and stability in governance and management," Doust said.