Dragons’ new owner gets McGregor’s backing
ST George Illawarra will usher in a new dawn with the club to undergo the biggest shake-up in its two decade history this week.
Reports indicate the protracted negotiations between the Dragons and WIN are over with the media giant agreeing to purchase a 50 per cent stake in St George Illawarra.
The club will also have a new chief executive and chairman in one of the most dramatic revamps of any club in rugby league history.
Former St George player and ex-chief executive Brian Johnston will return to the position to replace outgoing club boss Peter Doust at the end of the season. Andrew Gordon will also be part of the sweeping changes with the son of WIN owner Bruce stepping up to become the club's chairman.
The changes are expected to be announced as early as this week.
But the most significant facelift is WIN assuming 50 per cent ownership in the joint-venture after taking on the Steelers' share.
WIN's first task was paying off the $6 million debt the Dragons owed the NRL. It is understood representatives from the Dragons and WIN went to NRL headquarters late last week and met with league bosses to finalise the deal where the club paid off the multimillion-dollar debt the Dragons had to the governing body.
The Dragons also owe less than $700,000 to a private benefactor.
WIN will nominate three board members while St George will provide three of their own.
Illawarra will nominate one board member but they would become a "Class B shareholder" and not have full voting rights.
WIN have appointed Andrew Gordon as chairman, replacing Johnston, who keeps his spot on the board. The chairman will not have a casting vote.
The Dragons name, logo and colours are protected with a unanimous vote needed to change any part of the club's identity. Matches will continued to be split between the club's Kogarah and Wollongong bases.
Dragons coach Paul McGregor on Monday morning said the shift in ownership was positive move.
"It's very positive going forward with such a strong organisation as WIN Corp and the Gordon family, who have been big supporters of rugby league, along with the St George equity," McGregor said.
"So the growth there in the business behind the football team will improve so it's a positive all round."
Despite WIN Corporation publicly distancing themselves from purchasing the club in April, prolonged negotiations were still occurring behind the scenes.
Discussions have been going on between the two parties since 2015 with negotiations so developed that an in-principal agreement had occurred as far back as May 2016.
There was a push from those within the St George side of the joint-venture to have the debt paid off by the St George Leagues Club.
This was met with resistance from the Illawarra faction and could have led to the St George Dragons taking 100 per cent control of the joint-venture, as the Steelers would not have been able to maintain their financial side of the agreement.
Instead, WIN's involvement will ensure Illawarra's interest remain.
Johnston will step back into the chief executive role he last held in 2000, having been the inaugural boss of the joint-venture before he stepped away due to ill health as Doust replaced him.
The former Kangaroo has since forged a successful business career. He was chief executive of Office National before working in a number of senior roles within Suncorp Group.
More recently, he has been a business consultant for IAG.
Johnston has had a decorated relationship with the Dragons first as a player before becoming an established administrator. He scored 61 tries from 167 matches while he also represented NSW and Australia.
Doust will leave the club in October.