Bill Kenwright, Everton chairman, acclaimed West End theatre and film producer, died earlier today.
Everton said the club was in mourning following the death of the club’s chairman of 19 years.
They added: “The club has lost a chairman, a leader, a friend and an inspiration.”
Former Everton forward Wayne Rooney paid tribute earlier tonight. He said: “I am devastated to hear the sad news about Bill Kenwright.
“I have known Bill since I was young and he’s had a huge impact on me as a person and my career. He was a great man and a big inspiration.”
Actor Sir Ian McKellen also expressed his gratitude.
He said: “Like many grateful actors I am in debt to Bill Kenwright for employment. he seemed to have known everyone in the business and to care about them. Yet every chat would veer round to his equal passion – Everton.”
Mr Kenwright first became involved in Everton when he joined the board of the club in 1989. Just a decade later, he bought a 68% majority share of the club for £20m and became deputy chairman.
In February 2016, he sold a 49.9% stake in the club to Iranian businessman Farhad Moshiri.
As Everton chairman, he oversaw 12 finishes in the top eight of the Premier League, also reaching the final of the FA Cup in 2009.
Mr Kenwright had surgery just eight weeks ago to remove a cancerous tumour from his liver.
A family statement said he passed away peacefully and was surrounded by loved ones: “He impacted the lives of thousands, whether that be through launching of careers or his unending loyalty, generosity and unfaltering friendship and support.”
Liverpool City Council leader Liam Robinson said the chairman played a big role in supporting the families affected by the Hillsborough disaster.
He said Mr Kenwright had shown how football can be a force for good and “realise we are better united”.
“Bill Kenwright was not just a fan of and chairman of Everton, he played a pivotal role in how the club supported Liverpool fans throughout the fight for truth and justice for Hilsbourough,” added Cllr Robinson.
The Scouser earned his wealth in the film and theatre industry. He received his breakthrough role in 1968 playing Gordon Clegg on the hit TV show Coronation Street.
He found big success staging new productions of Willy Russell’s Blood Brothers, as well as Andrew Lloyd-Webber and Tim Rice’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, making them long-running hits.
In the following six decade career, he would win multiple awards producing over 500 theatre productions, films and music albums.
Mr Kenwright was awarded a CBE for his services to film and theatre in 2001.
Featured image (c) Alamy