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'It's about time', 'best news in a decade', 'thank god': Legends' glee at Tigertown carnage as Wests sack board

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12th December, 2023
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The Wests Tigers have been thrown into chaos with the departure of CEO Justin Pascoe and Lee Hagipantelis and the dismissal of its entire board, according to media reports.

Two big names have been drafted in to tide the club over with former NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell taking over as interim Chairman and ex-South Sydney supremo Shane Richardson as the interim CEO.

The club board are set to meet this Tuesday night, but the major figures have already resigned and the meeting has now been pushed back to Wednesday to allow for legal documents to be drawn up.

“We are determined to be successful for our members and fans and that process begins in the front office,” said our members and fans and that process begins in the front office,” Tony Andreacchio, chair of Holman Barnes Group who own the club, to the Sydney Morning Herald.

“Lee and Justin faced enormous challenges, but they have left a legacy which gives us a strong base for the future. But one thing is clear – this club is determined to provide the leadership required to be successful in the NRL.”

Benny Elias, speaking to Fox League, described it as the club’s “greatest step forward in a decade”.

“It’s fantastic, great news for the club,” he said. “They’ve had the courage to make a massive decision which is the club’s greatest step forward in the past decade.

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“It was definitely time for a massive change, an upheaval. They’ve had the courage to do it and congratulations to them.

“This has got to be the turning point and now they’ve got to replace (the board) with credible people. They need to do a thorough recruitment process of the people that are going to take it on from here because it’s a big job.

Club legend Garry Jack laid into the outgoing regime.

“I didn’t think it would happen, the review by the Holman Barnes Group has been coming to this,” he said on 2GB radio.

“I can’t believe it’s happened, I think it’s a really positive day for the Tigers.

“I think Barry O’Farrell will be an excellent chairman. To be honest, the guys that have been there, Pascoe, Hagipantelis, the board, have overseen two wooden spoons for the Tigers. Who keeps their job if you get two wooden spoons?

“Coaches go, players go, but they’re in their ivory towers, they’ve been there for 10 years and stayed on. It’s about time they’re accountable for their actions.”

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Holman Barnes Group has been conducting an independent review into the operations of the Tigers following years of poor performances on the field.

TOWNSVILLE, AUSTRALIA - JULY 01: West Tigers Board Director Lee Hagipantelis and CEO Justin Pascoe look on before the start of the round 18 NRL match between North Queensland Cowboys and Wests Tigers at Qld Country Bank Stadium on July 01, 2023 in Townsville, Australia. (Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)

Wests Tigers CEO Justin Pascoe and chair Lee Hagipantelis. (Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)

The review was spear-headed by former NRL financial chief Tony Crawford and business figure Gary Barnier, MD at Benchmarking Matters and Cooperage Capital.

“I participated in it so it would be nice to see the outcome but from what I can see from a macro point of view is they’ve made the right decision,” said Elias of the review.

“It’s almost spot on (to Elias’ recommendations), I’m very pleased. There needed to be change at the top, that’s exactly what they needed and they’ve done it, it’s great. They’ve listened to the review. I’m very excited.

“It’s the best news I’ve heard out of the Wests Tigers in a long, long time. Thank god.”

The ownership of the Tigers is split between the Holman Barnes Group (90%), the rebranded Wests Ashfield Leagues Club organisation, plus a remaining 10% from the Balmain club.

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Dave Gilbert for Holman Barnes, Danny Stapleton for the Balmain Tigers and an as-yet-unannounced Wests Magpies member will form the rest of the new board alongside O’Farrell and Richardson.

The move also throws a major sponsorship arrangement up in the air, as Hagipantelis is the Principal at Bryden’s Lawyers, the legal firm who are currently the biggest corporate partner of the Tigers.

Barry O’Farrell returns to the club, where he was previously chair in 2019 before ceding the position to Hagipantelis.

Richardson has been around rugby league for decades and famously led South Sydney to the Premiership in 2014, breaking one of the longest droughts in the sport. He was also involved with Penrith in their 2003 Premiership and at various clubs in the Super League.

He has an established relationship with Crawford and recently featured in a long series of podcasts on the state of the NRL in 2023 along with host James Graham, coach Jason Demetriou, player Dale Finucane and journalist Danny Weidler.

More to follow

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