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Wigan Warriors set for new owner and Chairman as Ian Lenagan calls time

Wigan Warriors, alongside the likes of Leeds Rhinos, Warrington Wolves and St Helens, are the driving force behind British rugby league.

The Warriors are the sport’s most successful club with a huge 20 Challenge Cups and are the only side to win seven in a row, doing so in an unrivalled period of success in the 80s and 90s, which also saw them win league title after league title.

In the modern era, the Warriors have been at the forefront winning five Grand Finals, including a domestic double in 2013. They are the current holders of the Challenge Cup and have two of the league’s biggest stars in Jai Field and Bevan French.

However, the end of this year will bring great change with Ian Lenagan set to stand down as shareholder and Chairman.

This means Mike Danson will become 100% owner of Wigan Warriors purchasing the remaining 51% of the Lenagan shares on 1st December 2023.

Professor Chris Brookes will become the Club’s new Chairman having recently been appointed Vice Chairman, following on from a 40-year career in the NHS and as a rugby league doctor.

“I have a strong memory of walking down to Central Park aged about 9-years-old with my brother Tony and my Grandfather Tom Moran, beyond excited as always, to see my favourite Wigan players of the day: Billy Boston, Eric Ashton and Brian McTigue – all magical names to any Cherry and Whites supporter of a certain age,” Lenagan recalled.

“I was reminded of that moment at the recent Wigan v Saints game at the DW Stadium 68 years later reflecting that my time supporting and then leading this club which has been a central part of my life, would soon be coming to an end.

“It barely seemed possible that a young lad from Scholes, whose only dream was to see his beloved Wigan team lift trophy after trophy, would many years later be able to do that from such a lofty and privileged position.

“When the opportunity to own Wigan Warriors appeared I could scarcely believe it. It was always my ideal once I got involved with running London Broncos and I was as keen then to regenerate Wigan’s position of being a standard bearer for excellence in professional sport, on and off the field, as I still am today.”

Lenagan, who became Wigan Chairman at the end of 2007, with his first season at the helm coming in 2008, has helped bring the club back to its former glories after a tough period in the mid to late 2000s that almost saw the Warriors suffer a catastrophic relegation.

However, Lenagan has brought not only stability, but silverware back to the club, with only five coaches appointed during his reign and all of them experiencing some form of success as Wigan have consistently remained contenders for all major honours season after season.

Speaking in more detail about his time in charge, Lenagan added: “The five coaches I’ve worked with – Brian Noble, Michael Maguire, Shaun Wane, Adrian Lam and Matt Peet – plus some fantastic players in George Carmont, Sam Tomkins, Pat Richards, Michael McIlorum, Sean O’Loughlin and Tommy Leuluai to name a few personal favourites, have all played their part in giving so many people some magnificent memories. Super Leagues, Challenge Cups, World Club Challenges at home and in Australia, Barcelona, Wembley and of course Tottenham last year.

“Being able to share all the experiences, some uplifting, some heartbreaking, with my family, with heroes I previously could only admire as a fan and with the people of the town where I was born and raised, means more to me than many of you will ever know. They have provided many signposts for my life for the past 16 years.

“I have had the pleasure of making great friendships through Rugby League at Wigan, in France, with other clubs’ directors and fans and within Super League and the RFL generally. I feel Rugby League is now in a strong position to grow again with a better structure, strong owners and the IMG relationship.

“I am pleased to have been the custodian of Wigan Warriors for 16 years and particularly in its celebratory 150th year. Custodianship also brings the responsibility to find your successor and in Mike Danson, someone I’ve grown to know and like a great deal over the last three years, I believe the Club’s future will be in the best of hands with his history as a long-term supporter of Wigan Warriors. His humility and steely resolve to continue the tradition we all contribute to and appreciate the value of, is based on true Wigan resolve.”

In his final words on his time at the club, Lenagan thanked all those that had played some part in his 16 years at the DW Stadium, a time in which, as mentioned previously, has brought great stability back to the Wigan club after a rocky period.

He did however give special thanks to one former player, a player who since retiring has moved to work alongside Lenagan at the top end of the club, helping them to continue the success of when he played during the 1990s and 2000s.

“I’d like to thank all of the Wigan staff that have given everything they have, often at great cost, through challenging times. My time at Wigan has been helped by the amazing support and unending loyalty from my PA, Mandy Johnston, and from the sterling efforts of David Moore as Finance Director and Wayne Joyce as Operations Director. I’d also like to pass on my best wishes to Chris Brookes as incoming Chairman,” Lenagan added.

“But my highest praise of all rests with Kris Radlinski who I have been delighted to see develop from being one of my favourite Wigan players into one of the best Chief Executives in Super League. The pleasure of mentoring him in the early days, winning and losing, financial uncertainty, the trials of the Covid years and the relaunch afterwards of the new identity, and the Robin Park headquarters has been very special.

“Perhaps the only true test of any retiring ownership is how the club is left for those that come next. With more teams than ever, a world-class training facility, thriving Education and Community programmes and peace of mind about where we play, I’d like to think that the Club is in a good place, ready to challenge consistently on the field and to play its part in a new future for sport in Wigan and the surrounding area.

“Finally, I’d like to thank all the Wigan Warriors supporters and that small group of private shareholders for their unerring support during my time as Owner and Chairman. Perhaps that has given me the proudest feelings of all. It is something that the 9-year-old boy who ended up living his own Wigan Rugby League dream will be grateful for always.”

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