A board member since 1989, Kenwright became Everton’s chairman and majority owner in 2004. In 2016 he oversaw the sale of 49.9 per cent of the club – including half of his own stake – to Farhad Moshiri, who became majority shareholder two years later. Kenwright remained active at the club under Mr Moshiri and was working towards the proposed sale of the Toffees to a new owner, 777 Partners.
Beyond football, Kenwright was a giant of theatre production, best known for the long-running Blood Brothers and the hugely successful Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. He also built his own music label, Bill Kenwright Records.
After undergoing surgery to remove a tumour several weeks ago, Kenwright was kept in intensive care, the club revealed at the time, but had returned home to continue his recovery.
In a statement on Tuesday, the club said: “Everton football club is in mourning following the death of chairman Bill Kenwright CBE, who passed away peacefully last night aged 78, surrounded by his family and loved ones.
“Everton’s longest-serving chairman for more than a century, Bill Kenwright led the club through a period of unprecedented change in English football.
“A lifelong Evertonian, he became a board member on October 23, 1989, and then on Boxing Day 1999 his True Blue Holdings consortium acquired the club. Initially vice-chairman, he succeeded his close friend Sir Philip Carter as chair in 2004.
“In his 19 seasons as Chairman, the Club secured 12 top-eight finishes, including a top-four finish in 2005, a run to the 2009 FA Cup final and European qualification on 6 separate occasions.
“The club has lost a chairman, a leader, a friend, and an inspiration. The thoughts and prayers of everyone at Everton are with his partner Jenny Seagrove, his daughter Lucy Kenwright, grandchildren and everybody who knew and loved him.”
Everton owner Farhad Moshiri wrote his own tribute to his “great friend”, describing Kenwright as “a special soul, a man successful in so many different walks of life”.
“There can be no mistaking that Bill loved Everton football club,” Moshiri wrote. “He spoke with an infectious enthusiasm about every aspect of Everton, from the legends of yesteryear to his unconditional support for everyone that wears the blue shirt and represents the club...
“Bill loved Goodison Park, a stadium that held so many special memories but he also shared in an incredible vision for our new stadium and when the club moves in I don’t think anyone would have been prouder.
“The new Everton Stadium at Bramley-Moore Dock will provide an iconic new home for the club on the banks of the Royal Blue Mersey and will stand as a lasting legacy to his memory.”
Former Everton forward Wayne Rooney wrote on X: "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."
Former Liverpool defender and Sky Sports pundit Jamie Carragher posted: “Really sad news this. A huge Evertonian who served and loved his club to bits. I’ll never forget his and Everton’s support every year around the Hillsborough memorial.”