Bill Kenwright, aged 78, takes his final bow from a life of theatre and Everton Football Club

October 25 – Everton chairman Bill Kenwright has died at the age of 78 following a battle with illness.

Kenwright recently had surgery to remove a cancerous tumour but complications required him to remain in intensive care. On Tuesday, news of his passing was confirmed.

Kenwright had been on the board at Everton since 1989, taking ownership of the club for £20 million in 1999 and becoming chairman in 2004.

Everton said it was in “mourning” and “the club has lost a chairman, a leader, a friend, and an inspiration.’

“Bill was driven by his passions and devoted his life to them; his deep love of theatre, film, music and his beloved Everton, and the families they created,” read a family statement. “He impacted the lives of thousands, whether that be through the launching of careers or his unending loyalty, generosity and unfaltering friendship and support.”

Born in Liverpool – less than five miles from the club’s Goodison stadium – Kenwright became a lifelong Everton supporter, inspired by his childhood hero and forward Dave Hickson.

In his 19 seasons as chairman, Everton finished in the top eight 12 times and reached the 2009 FA Cup final. He presided over stable years under manager David Moyes, whose departure prompted a decline at Goodison Park.

In 2016, Kenwright sold a 49.9% stake in the club to Iranian businessman Farhad Moshiri, who increased his shares to 94% in January 2022. Moshiri sold his 94% stake to the controversial American investment fund 777 Partners in September.

Kenwright remained chairman until his death, but last season fans called for his resignation as Everton kept sliding and were once again involved in a battle against relegation. In an open letter, Kenwright expressed his hurt.

Liverpool mayor Steve Rotheram said he was “incredibly sad to hear of Bill’s passing”. He added: “Bill’s support to Hillsborough families will always be appreciated.”

Kenwright was also an acclaimed theatre and film producer, having produced more than 500 West End, Broadway, UK touring and international theatre productions, films and music albums.

In a tribute, Sir Ian McKellen wrote on social media: “Bill Kenwright (1945-2023) Like many grateful actors I am in debt to Bill Kenwright for employment.”

“We were young together, when he was in Coronation Street and I was dipping a toe into Shaftesbury Avenue. Since then, I have admired the resilient way in which he encouraged theatre to thrive in London and in the regions.

“Whether it was yet another tour of that wonderful musical ‘Blood Brothers’ or sponsoring the Peter Hall Company in the classics.”

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