Today Everton have made public the news that chairman Bill Kenwright has died after a recent illness and passed away peacefully at home last night.
First of all, along with so many others, my condolences go to his family and friends at such a difficult time.
Bill Kenwight has been a part of the story of Everton Football Club for many decades.
He first became a board member in 1989, the year of the Hillsborough disaster when 96 Liverpool supporters died just before their FA Cup semi-final against Nottingham Forest.
The Toffees were also playing in a semi-final that day and beat Norwich City to set up a second all-Merseyside FA Cup final in four years at Wembley.
Of course, the game was hugely overshadowed by the terrible events in South Yorkshire and Kenwright alluded to this when he made an emotional and heartfelt speech at Anfield in 2013 on the anniversary of the disaster.
Ten years after Hillsborough, Kenwright’s True Blue Holdings consortium would take control of the club and help to steer it clear of possible financial disaster after the takeover of Peter Johnson came to an end.
Johnson was the local businessman and big money owner – in those days anyway – who had got control of Everton in the mid-nineties and promised to finance improvements to the team and find a new stadium site (something that would be heard again of course from another wealthy new owner twenty odd years later!).
After Kenwright took control and although money was very tight and results on the pitch continued to be frustratingly poor, the new Chairman did stabilise the club financially and bring in the relatively unknown David Moyes in March 2002 – who successfully steered the club away from relegation again – in what turned out to be an inspired move.
Moyes, after a difficult start to his reign and with the explosive young talent of Wayne Rooney emerging at the same time, quickly lifted the team up the Premier League table and the Blues began to compete regularly again for European football.
Rooney left for Manchester United in summer 2004 in a controversial deal that Kenwright had a big part in negotiating.
However the Toffees had still emerged as the ‘best of the rest’ in the League despite a no-name squad, finishing in the top ten every season under the Scot (except for 2005-06) from 2002-03 to 2012-13.
Moyes himself left for United in 2013 and was succeeded by Roberto Martinez, who was still manager, when Kenwright announced in February 2016 that he had found the long sought-after wealthy individual who could take the club forward and fund the building of a new ground as Farhad Moshiri was unveiled as the new owner.
Let’s be honest, the majority of Blues fans were fully supportive of a new owner with bags of cash taking over who just might be able to restore the club to it’s former glories.
Kenwright stayed on as Chairman under Moshiri and the two were clearly close partners, effectively it seemed taking the big decisions at the club together.
However, despite all the promises and a huge splurge of spending on new players, results ultimately declined and a succession of managers from Martinez through Ronald Koeman to Marco Silva and even Carlo Ancelotti couldn’t turn things around.
After the Italian legend left to return to Real Madrid in June 2021, Moshiri, with Kenwright still his trusted chairman and confident, hired ex-Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez to replace him in a move that was hugely controverisal with many supporters and very risky.
Inevitably as so many of us thought, things didn’t work out and Benitez proved a disaster in the end, hanging on for weeks while the board dithered as results went into a tailspin that almost cost Everton their Premier League status.
Two more managers later and the Toffees are still mired deep in trouble both on and off the pitch, with accumulated debts potentially costing the club a points deduction when the Premier League’s independent commission reports, possibly later this week, on Everton’s alledged breaches of FFP rules.
Meanwhile, survival in the top flight was only secured on the final day of last season and the team has struggled for any form or momentum since the start of the current campaign and looks set for another desperate relegation battle.
So, his legacy might be a complicated one, especially after recent events, but I think he should be ultimately remembered as a true Evertonian and a man who always wanted the absolute best for the club he loved.