Bill Kenwright, a British theater impresario and film producer whose 34-year association with Everton soccer club included spending nearly two decades as its chairman, has died. He was 78.
Everton announced Kenwright's death on Tuesday. The club said he died peacefully Monday, surrounded by his family and loved ones, after battling cancer.
“The club has lost a chairman, a leader, a friend, and an inspiration,” Everton said in a statement.
Kenwright, a lifelong Everton fan who regularly attended the team's games at Goodison Park, first joined the northwest club's board in 1989, bought a 68% stake in 1999 and became chairman in 2004. It was a position he still held until his death, despite a turbulent last couple of years under Everton owner Farhad Moshiri, who has been looking to sell the club and recently overhauled the board.
Kenwright had a cancerous tumor removed from his liver in August. Everton said this month that the operation had been successful but complications meant Kenwright needed a lengthy stay in an intensive care unit before continuing his recovery at home.
Wayne Rooney, the England and Manchester United great who broke through at Everton as a 16-year-old prodigy, wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter, that Kenwright “had a huge impact on me as a person and my career.”
“Great man and a big inspiration,” Rooney wrote.
Kenwright, who was born in Liverpool, began his showbiz career as an actor and appeared in the soap opera “Coronation Street” in the late 1960s, returning for occasional appearances over the years after he moved into producing.
He became one of Britain’s biggest stage impresarios, producing shows in London’s West End and on Broadway — some flops, many hits, including “Blood Brothers,” which ran in London for 24 years, and a hit touring production of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat.” Among his most recent shows as producer was “Heathers: The Musical,” currently touring the U.K.
He also produced movies, including “Cheri,” “Broken” and “The Fanatic,” a thriller starring John Travolta.
He was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II in 2001 for services to theater and film.
Actor Ian McKellen wrote on X: “Like many grateful actors I am in debt to Bill Kenwright for employment.”
McKellen said Kenwright “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.”
Associated Press writer Jill Lawless in London contributed to this story.
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