Bill Kenwright's theatre hits included Blood Brothers, which ran in London’s West End for 24 years.
Tributes have been paid to Bill Kenwright, the legendary theatre producer and Everton chairman, after he died aged 78.
The football club said he passed away peacefully on 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.
Lord of the Rings star Sir Ian McKellen led the tributes, writing on X, formerly known as Twitter, that many actors were in debt to Kenwright and noted the industry would be “dimmer” following his death.
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.”
Bill Kenwright (1945-2023)
Like many grateful actors I am in debt to Bill Kenwright for employment. "Frank & Percy" at his @TheOtherPalace will be his last theatre production. And "The Critic," will be his last film …. pic.twitter.com/w9qlOwzi26
— Ian McKellen (@IanMcKellen) October 24, 2023
Wayne Rooney, the England and Manchester United footballer who broke through at Everton as a 16-year-old, wrote on X that Kenwright “had a huge impact on me as a person and my career”. “Great man and a big inspiration,” Rooney wrote.
Kenwright spent a prolonged period in intensive care after undergoing surgery to remove a cancerous tumour from his liver last summer before returning home two weeks ago.
Born in Liverpool, Kenwright began his showbusinesss career as an actor and appeared in Coronation Street in the late 1960s before moved into producing.
He became one of Britain’s biggest stage impresarios, producing hits including Blood Brothers, which ran in London’s West End for 24 years.
Kenwright first joined Everton’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.