Everton chairman Bill Kenwright has died aged 78 after a battle with cancer, the Premier League club announced on Tuesday.
“Everton Football Club is in mourning following the death of chairman Bill Kenwright, who passed away peacefully last night aged 78, surrounded by his family and loved ones,” the club reported.
Kenwright, who succeeded Phillip Carter as chairman in 2004 after first joining the board at Goodison Park in 1989, passed away following surgery to have a cancerous tumour removed from his liver in August.
Liverpool-born Kenwright, who was married to British actor Jenny Seagrove, was a successful theatre impresario and film producer.
“The club has lost a chairman, a leader, a friend, and an inspiration,” Everton added.
Former players and rival clubs also paid their respects.
Wayne Rooney, who broke through at Goodison Park as a 16-year-old, wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter: “Devastated to hear the sad news about Bill Kenwright.
“Known Bill since I was young and he’s had a huge impact on me as a person and my career. Great man and a big inspiration. Thoughts are with all Bill’s family and friends.”
Kenwright’s support for the families of Liverpool fans who died at the Hillsborough disaster was remembered from across the city.
“A huge Evertonian who served & loved his club to bits,” former Liverpool defender and boyhood Everton fan Jamie Carragher posted on social media.
“I’ll never forget his & Everton’s support every year around the Hillsborough memorial.”
Kenwright’s consortium bought a majority 68-percent stake in the club in 1999.
However, his time at the helm was marked by diminishing returns on the field and feuds with supporters over the future of the club.
Everton has not won a major trophy since 1995 and narrowly avoided being relegated from the top flight of English football for the first time since 1954 in the last two seasons.
Kenwright sold his majority stake to British-Iranian businessman Farhad Moshiri in 2016.
Despite spending hundreds of millions on players under Moshiri, Everton has continued to struggle and Kenwright came under pressure from a section of fans who protested at how the club was being run.
Last month it was announced that a deal to sell the club to American investment firm 777 Partners had been agreed.
However, doubts remain over whether the takeover will go ahead after reports 777 Partners had failed to supply necessary information to the Financial Conduct Authority,