Everton chairman Bill Kenwright has died at the age of 78.
In a statement on its website, the club confirmed it was mourning the death of its long-term chairman, who it confirmed passed away on Monday evening.
“The club has lost a chairman, a leader, a friend, and an inspiration,” the statement added. “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.”
Kenwright first joined the board at Everton in 1989 and became deputy chairman a decade later after buying a majority share in the club.
He had been chairman of Everton for almost 20 years.
Kenwright was diagnosed with liver cancer in early August and left hospital around a fortnight ago after undergoing emergency surgery to remove a cancerous tumour.
Earlier this year, Kenwright had agreed to remain on the board at Everton at the request of owner Moshiri to help the club through a transitionary period.
Moshiri, who first invested in Everton in 2016, agreed the sale of Everton to 777 Partners last month. The deal is still subject to regulatory approval.
He wrote his own tribute to his “great friend”, describing Kenwright as “a special soul, a man successful in so many different walks of life”.
“There can be no mistaking that Bill loved Everton football club,” Moshiri wrote. “He spoke with an infectious enthusiasm about every aspect of Everton, from the legends of yesteryear to his unconditional support for everyone that wears the blue shirt and represents the club…
“Bill loved Goodison Park, a stadium that held so many special memories but he also shared in an incredible vision for our new stadium and when the club moves in I don’t think anyone would have been prouder.
“The new Everton Stadium at Bramley-Moore Dock will provide an iconic new home for the club on the banks of the Royal Blue Mersey and will stand as a lasting legacy to his memory.”
Former Everton striker Duncan Ferguson, who made more than 250 appearances for the club across 10 years in three spells, paid tribute to Kenwright, having also served as his caretaker manager at Goodison Park on two separate occasions.
He wrote: “I am deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Everton chairman and true Blue, Bill Kenwright. He loved the club with a passion and he loved the players who wore the famous Royal Blue shirt, every one of them.
“None more so than The Cannonball Kid, Dave Hickson, his childhood and forever hero. He was my chairman for many years and a confidant. You were loved, Bill, and you will be missed. Rest In Peace. God bless, Dunk.”
Former Everton forward Wayne Rooney, who broke through at Goodison Park as a 16-year-old, also paid tribute to Kenwright.
He said: “I’m devastated to hear about the passing of Mr Everton, Bill Kenwright. I can’t thank you enough Chairman for giving me the opportunity to play for our club and the support throughout my career on and off the park.
“I’ll miss our calls and stories about Everton. RIP chairman.”
‘We know him as synonymous with Everton – but he had a huge life outside football’
Sky Sports News senior reporter Rob Dorsett:
“We all know Bill as someone synonymous with Goodison Park, for three decades. But actually, a lot of people outside of football knew him as a famous actor. He was in Coronation Street, and people may remember him from Z-Cars as well, which used to get tens of millions of viewers on a weekend.
“He did the unthinkable, of walking away from Coronation Street which no actor back then would do. He decided he had bigger fish to fry, but he went on to become this incredibly successful theatre producer, he made his millions in TV and theatre production, and you look at some of the shows he produced in the West End too.
“Joseph and the Technicolour Dreamcoat, Blood Brothers, Evita, West Side Story, some huge shows which are still around now. He was awarded a CBE in January 2001, as recognition for everything he’d done in the arts. He had a huge, successful, glamorous life outside of football which our viewers perhaps don’t remember or weren’t aware of because of his synonymousness with Everton.
“He’d been an Everton fan since birth, it was in his family and he was born in the Wavertree area of Liverpool, and he became involved in Everton more than 30 years ago. He took over the club with that 68 per cent share he bought in 1999, became chairman in 2004, and back then he was seen as a saviour by Everton fans. There were a lot of financial troubles, which we’re seeing similarly at the club now, that were there at the time.
“He made some hugely popular decisions too. He brought Duncan Ferguson back to the club, he gave Wayne Rooney his first contract, but controversially then sold him to Manchester United. A lot of fans didn’t like it but that was the financial reality he felt he was facing back then.
“He had this very successful time with Everton, perhaps the highlight was in 2005 after they reached the Champions League qualifiers. There were some really successful times, but also some more difficult ones of late. One of the saddest things for Bill Kenwright and his family was that in the last six or seven months, he hasn’t been able to visit Goodison Park because he was advised to stay away.
“I think that hit him and his family very hard, and he wrote to some of the fans and said it was one of the saddest things for him that he couldn’t be there with them. No-one could doubt his affiliation, his love and huge support of Everton Football Club.”