St George Illawarra could be just days away from being officially sold after the Gordon family tabled an offer that will finally take the famous club off the market.
While the WIN Corporation walked away from the negotiating table last month, company supremo Bruce Gordon and his son Andrew have put a deal on the table on behalf of the family rather than the firm. The bid, subject to NRL approval, will result in Illawarra’s 50 per cent stake of the joint venture being sold off.
A figure of $10 million has long been bandied about as the number required to make the sale a reality, although it’s understood the value of the deal is structured in a way that takes into account the almost $6 million the club owes to the NRL. It's believed there were also talks about the prospect of another party being involved as a range of ownership structures were discussed.
The game’s governing body has been in high-level talks with the Gordons, as has the club, and a final sign-off is imminent. A deal will bring an end to negotiations between the parties that have gone on for almost two years and will end constant speculation about the club’s ownership structure.
The ownership transition will be the final act of long-serving chief executive Peter Doust, who will finish his tenure at the end of the season. The final negotiations are at a delicate stage, but there appears no major impediment to the deal being finalised.
The Dragons were preparing to officially put up the 'for sale’ sign after WIN walked away from the negotiating table last month. Several other suitors had shown an interest in purchasing the club, including a Qatari consortium that was fronted by Australian businessman Michael Ibrahim.
However, plans to publicly court buyers were put on hold when Andrew and Bruce Gordon finally put forward an offer that the Dragons hierarchy felt reflected the club’s market value.
The Dragons’ stocks have risen after shooting to the top of the NRL ladder. Coach Paul McGregor’s team have jumped two points clear of their rivals after beating defending premiers Melbourne on Sunday, prompting bookmakers to install them as the new title favourites.
St George Illawarra’s preference was always to sell to WIN Corporation because of the firm’s strong ties to the region and passion for the football franchise.
Rather than completing the deal through WIN, the Gordons will finalise it through another company. It’s understood Andrew has been the driving force in making the purchase a reality and will likely remain a director in a restructured boardroom that will have an additional seat.
The developments herald a new era and direction for one of the game's most famous brands. The Dragons are in the process of finding a replacement for Doust with recruiting companies, while long-serving chairman Warren Lockwood stood down as chairman last year. His replacement, Brian Johnston, is the only person to preside over the merged club as CEO apart from Doust.
The issue of club ownership is again a topical one. While Manly chairman and majority owner Scott Penn has publicly stated he won't sell the Sea Eagles, a raft of potential purchasers are being mobilised. Fairfax Media revealed on Sunday that the Qatari syndicate is also keen to buy out the embattled Sea Eagles.