Bill Kenwright – the West End producer and long-term chairman of Everton Football Club – has died at the age of 78.
A post by the club on X, formerly known as Twitter, said: “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.”
The Liverpool-born businessman made his name in the arts, at first as an actor with a breakthrough role in Coronation Street – playing the entrepreneurial Gordon Clegg.
But Kenwright’s own entrepreneurial talent would prove his true calling.
After swapping a role in front of the camera for backstage business, he became one of Britain’s most successful film and theatre producers.
During his career, he worked on a string of hits, including Willy Russell’s musical Blood Brothers, and Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.
But in the streets of his home city, he was best known as the long-term chairman of his boyhood club, Everton.
Born in Liverpool’s Wavertree district – less than five miles from the club’s stadium – Kenwright was inspired as a child by his idol, Everton forward, Dave Hickson.
In 1989, he was invited to join the board of directors at Goodison Park, and rose to become deputy chairman before completing a £20m takeover in 1999.
He was appointed chairman in 2004, and a year later saw the club end a nearly 10-year wait for European football by qualifying for the Champions League under the guidance of then manager David Moyes.
In 2016, Kenwright sold half of his stake in Everton to British-Iranian businessman Farhad Moshiri – though he stayed on as chairman.
Mr Moshiri continued to increase his own stake over the next six years.
However, in September, he agreed to sell his 94% stake to American investment fund 777 Partners – a deal which is currently awaiting approval by regulators.
Earlier this month, Everton announced Kenwright had undergone an operation to remove a cancerous tumour from his liver.
In a statement released at the time, the club said the operation had been “completely successful” but that Kenwright would undergo a “prolonged period in an intensive care unit”.
The club said Kenwright had “worked hard” alongside Mr Moshiri “right up until the day” of his operation to help facilitate the proposed takeover by 777 Partners.
Earlier this year, Mr Moshiri backed Kenwright amid protests from Everton fans directed at the long-term chairman and the club’s ownership.
Outside of football, Kenwright had two marriages – the first to New Zealand-born actress-turned-hotelier, Anouska Hempel, and the second to actress Jenny Seagrove.
He also had a daughter, Lucy Kenwright, from his relationship with the actress Virginia Stride.
In a statement, his family said they were “devastated to share the sad news of the loss of a beloved partner, father, grandfather and friend: Bill Kenwright CBE.
“Following a long battle with illness Bill passed away peacefully last night, surrounded by his family and loved ones.
“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.
“He impacted the lives of thousands, whether that be through the launching of careers or his unending loyalty, generosity and unfaltering friendship and support.”
They added: “In a multi-award-winning career spanning six decades, Bill produced over 500 West End, Broadway, UK touring and international theatre productions, films and music albums. His impact on the arts industry has been profound.”
Kenwright was awarded a CBE in the 2001 New Year’s Honours List, for services to film and theatre.