- Everton chairman Bill Kenwright has died at the age of 78 after a battle with cancer
- Kenwright has had a long journey to the helm at Everton Football Club
- Here is his story from movie theater halls to the head of a boardroom at a big Premier League club
Bill Kenwright, renowned for his childhood stories from the Boys’ Pen at Goodison Park, where he would eagerly watch his idol Dave Hickson, and reminisce about indulging in soggy meat pies, remained a devoted Everton fan throughout his life, even as he transitioned from the terraces to the boardroom to be the chairman of the club.
However, as the influence of money in football began to overshadow the sport, Kenwright faced criticism for Everton’s inability to keep pace with the Premier League’s leading teams.
His passing at the age of 78, following a battle with cancer, has deeply affected everyone associated with Everton. Born on September 4, 1945, in Liverpool, Kenwright’s journey from the son of a bricklayer-turned-builder to an accomplished figure was nothing short of dramatic. He often credited his childhood hero, Hickson, for teaching him the value of courage and daring.
Kenwright held his family, particularly his mother Hope, in high esteem, with her memorable intervention in negotiations between Manchester United and Wayne Rooney leaving a lasting imprint on the football world.
While Kenwright nurtured a passion for theatre and acting, his foray into the world of entertainment and production took center stage, with successful stints at the Liverpool Playhouse and a brief role in Coronation Street as Gordon Clegg.
Collaborations with renowned figures like Tim Rice and Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber further cemented his reputation in the world of theatre, as he contributed to the success of various productions such as Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, Jesus Christ Superstar, and Evita, along with producing the hit show Blood Brothers.
Despite his commitments in the entertainment industry, Kenwright’s love for Everton remained unwavering. Joining the club’s board in 1989, he later facilitated a successful takeover, acquiring a 68 percent majority share in 1999. He assumed the role of chairman in 2004, emphasizing his commitment to the club’s fans and their expectations.
Kenwright’s tenure as chairman coincided with Everton’s resurgence under the management of David Moyes. However, with the landscape of football changing rapidly due to the influence of billionaire owners, Kenwright faced mounting criticism for his perceived inability to keep pace. While he managed to secure billionaire Farhad Moshiri as a major shareholder, it meant relinquishing some of his authority for the club’s progress.
Even as he made tough decisions, such as appointing Sam Allardyce as manager, Kenwright continued to be a regular presence in the directors’ box at Goodison. Despite his efforts to engage with the fans, relations soured over time, and he faced increased scrutiny and criticism, with some fans even preventing him from attending matches at Goodison Park earlier this year.
Kenwright is survived by his partner Jenny Seagrove and daughter Lucy Kenwright, leaving behind a legacy deeply intertwined with the heart and history of Everton Football Club.