Bill Kenwright hasn’t attended any Everton matches since last season with the club announcing recently that he had undergone surgery for liver cancer.
Everton chairman Bill Kenwright has passed away at the age of 78.
Lifelong supporter Kenwright has been a shareholder at Goodison Park since 1999 and later became chairman in 2004. He has retained a stake in the club since Farhad Moshiri’s takeover in 2016.
The former West End producer, who also acted in Coronation Street, has not been seen at any Everton matches since last season. As a result, the club earlier announced this month that he had undergone surgery to remove a cancerous tumour in his liver in August.
Kenwright had a prolonged stay in intensive care after the surgery but was released from hospital on October 12 to continue his recovery at home.
The club said in a statement on Tuesday: “Everton Football Club is in mourning following the death of Chairman Bill Kenwright CBE, who passed away peacefully last night aged 78, surrounded by his family and loved ones”.
“Everton’s longest serving chairman for more than a century, Bill Kenwright led the Club through a period of unprecedented change in English football.
“A lifelong Evertonian, he became a board member on October 23, 1989, and then on Boxing Day 1999 his True Blue Holdings consortium acquired the Club. Initially vice-chairman, he succeeded his close friend Sir Philip Carter as Chair in 2004”.
“In his 19 seasons as Chairman, the Club secured 12 top eight finishes, including a top four finish in 2005, a run to the 2009 FA Cup final and European qualification on 6 separate occasions”.
“The club has lost a chairman, a leader, a friend, and an inspiration. The thoughts and prayers of everyone at Everton are with his partner Jenny Seagrove, his daughter Lucy Kenwright, grandchildren and everybody who knew and loved him.”
Before taking over at Goodison Park, Kenwright was best known for his long-running theatre shows Blood Brothers and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. He also made acting appearances in Carry On films and Coronation Street.
His attempts to buy out his boyhood club in 1994 failed before his consortium took over five years later, bringing an end to the much-maligned ownership of Peter Johnson.
Kenwright was lauded as a saviour by Everton fans and enjoyed relative success with David Moyes as manager as Everton qualified for Europe on multiple occasions. But he has faced criticism in recent times amid the struggles under Moshiri’s stewardship.
Upon the Iranian’s takeover, Kenwright insisted he had “found the perfect partner to take the club forward” but Everton have finished in the bottom half in three of the last four years, despite huge sums of money being spent. He is thought to have remained heavily involved in transfer negotiations since the ownership change, despite Moshiri having a 94 per cent stake since 2022.
In January this year, Kenwright and fellow board members were ordered to stay away from Goodison Park by security advisors after a series of fan protests, as Everton faced another relegation battle.
Those board members were absent from the remaining matches of last season, with Kenwright speaking of his ‘deep hurt’ at the developments in a letter to fans in April. He denied suggestions health issues were affecting his ability to do the job, having been told he had a ‘chronic illness’ in 2015.
He did offer to resign amid a reshuffle that saw chief executive Denise Barrett-Baxendale depart, but was persuaded to stay on by Moshiri, who has now agreed a deal to sell the club to 777 Partners.
It is believed Kenwright had been working alongside Moshiri right up until his procedure to help facilitate the proposed takeover, that is yet to be ratified by the Premier League.
Everton’s rivals Liverpool FC tweeted: “Rest in peace, Bill Kenwright. The thoughts of everyone at Liverpool FC are with Bill’s family, friends and everyone at Everton.”
Liverpool’s former mayor Joe Anderson said: “Bill Kenwright died having fought brain and recently liver cancer with bravery and dignity. But I know it was the poisonous cancer of so called fans personally attacking him that hurt most and broke his heart. His dedication and loyalty to Everton was unquestionable and he deserved better. RIP Bill.”
Former Everton forward Kevin Campbell said: “RIP Bill Kenwright and deep condolences to your family and The Everton Family too,” with Everton icon Peter Reid adding: “RIP Bill.”
Acting legend Sir Ian McKellen said: “Like many grateful actors I am in debt to Bill Kenwright for employment. “Frank & Percy” at his @TheOtherPalace will be his last theatre production. And “The Critic,” will be his last film. 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.
“In private, Bill relished gossip and loved to reminisce. He seemed to have known everyone in the business and to care about them. Yet every chat would veer round to his equal passion – Everton football. The city that gave us The Beatles and two major football teams, also bred a unique impresario. Whether the West End lights will be turned off in his memory, certainly our business will be dimmer now he has gone.”