Wests Tigers in $1 million NRL fallout amid brutal move from ex-chair Lee Hagipantelis

Hagipantelis and the entire Wests Tigers board were sacked in dramatic scenes last season.

Former Wests Tigers chairman Lee Hagipantelis has slammed the current regime at the NRL club in a scathing letter in which he revealed plans to pull his $1 million sponsorship. Hagipantelis is the principal of Brydens Lawyers - the major sponsor of the Wests Tigers - and served as the club's chairman for four years before being ousted last season in a complete boardroom overhaul.

The entire Wests Tigers board, including Hagipantelis and former CEO Justin Pascoe, were removed after a review of the club's culture and governance ordered by the board's controlling faction and major shareholder, the Holman Barnes Group. It came after years of underperforming by the Tigers in the NRL, who were consigned to their second straight wooden spoon in 2023.

Pictured right is former Wests Tigers chair Lee Hagipantelis.
Former Wests Tigers chair Lee Hagipantelis and Brydens Lawyers principal has indicated he will pull his sponsorship from the NRL club. Pic: Getty

Hagipantelis said at the time that his Brydens Lawyers group would continue with its lucrative sponsorship of the club, but in a scathing two-page letter obtained by News Corp, he suggested that will no longer be the case. Veteran News Corp league reporter Phil Rothfield revealed details of the eye-opening move from Hagipantelis during a segment on Sky Sports Radio’s Big Sports Breakfast.


“You should see the unedited version of the letter,” Rothfield said about the two-page document from the former Wests Tigers chair. “When I wrote the column yesterday I sent it off to our lawyers and there were some very, very heavy words that our people, for defamation reasons, took out of the letter.

“He has put in $1 million a year of Brydens Lawyers’ money... but he’s had enough... he is not prepared to put his money up under these sort of circumstances. I can understand Lee Hagipantelis’ disappointment. He wasn’t involved in the review in any other way, but it’s just a bad divorce isn’t it?”

News Corp reports the letter was addressed to the Tigers’ head of corporate partnerships, Nathan Russell, although stressed that he wasn't involved in the ousting of Hagipantelis and the former board members. The club's former chair took aim at interim Tigers' CEO Shane Richardson, described the review into the club as a "sham" and labelled key stakeholders at the Tigers "cowards" in a withering spray.

“The disgraceful events of 12 December last year impacted significantly and adversely on the relationship of Brydens Lawyers and Wests Tigers given the disrespectful way I, as Chairman of Wests Tigers, was treated by the representatives of the Club’s stakeholders,” Hagipantelis stated in the letter. “Despite such despicable conduct, I continued with my commitment to the current contractual arrangements as opposed to terminating same, a course adopted by another high-profile sponsor.

On the left is former Wests Tigers chair Lee Hagipantelis and interim CEO Shane Richardson on the right.
Former Wests Tigers chair Lee Hagipantelis is unhappy with how interim CEO Shane Richardson has criticised his tenure at the NRL club. Pic: Getty

“I felt that the honourable thing to do was to fulfil my current obligations, although honour is a quality that does not seem to permeate throughout the upper echelons of the Wests Tigers ownership.” Hagipantelis then went on to accuse interim Tigers CEO Richardson of directing "consistent criticism" at him and the previous regime and said he could not continue being involved in business with people he did not respect.

Hagipantelis described "representatives of the stakeholders" who he served with on the Tigers board as "cowards" and said he finds it "most distasteful to contemplate the continuation of a relationship with Wests Tigers while these persons remain involved" with the club. He went on to express his support for Wests Tigers coach Benji Marshall, the footy department and its players but said he feared the success of the club would be "compromised" while those he hit out at remained at the club.