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Tigers in turmoil: Civil war could see chair overthrown, place $1m deal in jeopardy

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The Wests Tigers are facing more off-field turmoil with chair Lee Hagipantelis reportedly on the brink of being overthrown.

The SMH reports the club’s majority shareholder, the Holman Barnes Group, invited Hagipantelis to stand down from his role just days after being reappointed but it was rejected.

Board member Tony Andreacchio, speaking on their behalf, invited Hagipantelis to quit and said he had only been extended as independent director – not as chairman, which had been reported occurred until November 2025.

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However Hagipantelis has strongly rejected this suggestion he was not extended in both roles.

Now Tigers higher-ups are considering bringing in former NSW premier and ex-Tigers chairman Barry O’Farrell, plus former Australian Olympic Committee John Coates, onto the board.

It comes as an external governance and culture review will examine the roles of Hagipantelis and CEO Justin Pascoe.

Hagipantelis’ exit could place the club’s near-$1 million a year sponsorship deal with his company Bryden’s Lawyers under threat.

“At the moment we have an external review on the whole club,” Andreacchio said.

“It’s probably an inappropriate time to make any formal or informal comment at the moment. This review is very critical.

“The Holman Barnes Group is one of the major shareholders and are very much behind it. I think any comment doesn’t serve any purpose at the moment. Currently he is the chairman.”

Chairman of the Tigers Lee Hagipantelis walks off after defeat the round 21 NRL match between St George Illawarra Dragons and Wests Tigers at WIN Stadium on July 20, 2023 in Wollongong, Australia. (Photo by Jeremy Ng/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

The Tigers board currently has seven directors but can hold up to nine.

“Independent directors are always open up to review to see who is available and who would like to come on,” Andreacchio said.

“It’s something we’re holding off on until the end of this review. Until then, there’ll be no further action. I don’t want to derail the review in any shape or form.”

However one of those involved in the independent review has had his role questioned.

Gary Barnier and former NRL chief financial officer Tony Crawford are conducting the review, but Barnier is one of 13 Wests Tigers Foundation members who donated $100,000 to the club over a four-year period.

“I took the decision to provide money to the club through that Foundation 13, which meant I could contribute – because I can afford to contribute – but I get nothing in return for it,” Barnier said.

“It’s just like a super-high level of membership, I suppose. That’s the beginning and end of it. I’m not getting paid for this review.

“I’ve offered to do it because of my emotional connection and my family’s emotional connection with the club. That’s all it is. I can’t think of any possible conflict of interest.”

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