Bill Kenwright donated £250K to cancer victims before his death

How Everton chairman ‘Uncle Bill’ Kenwright wanted ‘no fuss or publicity’ after donating a total £250K to Bradley Lowery and Laura Nuttall to help them fight cancer – as families pay tribute to ‘real gentleman’ after his death

  • Former Everton chairman Bill Kenwright has passed away at the age of 78 

Bill Kenwright wanted ‘no fuss or publicity’ after he donated hundreds of thousands of pounds to cancer victims, it has been revealed, as the families he helped pay tribute to the ‘real gentleman’. 

The Everton chairman and West End icon, fondly known as ‘Uncle Bill’, died on Monday age 78 succumbing to his eight-year-battle with cancer following complications from surgery in August. 

Kenwright enjoyed an illustrious career in the theatre, best known for the long-running West End hit Blood Brothers.  

Thought to be one of the most prolific showmen in theatre, he had 500 productions to his name including Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Evita, Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, and Jesus Christ Superstar.

Last night it emerged that Kenwright had donated a total of £250,000 to the families of Laura Nuttall and Bradley Lowery to help them with their cancer treatment. He paid £50,000 for Laura, who died in May, to receive treatment for her brain cancer in Germany, while he donated £200,000 to Sunderland mascot Bradley, who died age six with a neuroblastoma.

Paying tribute to the football giant, whose death has shocked fans and loved ones, Laura’s mother Nicola said: ‘We kept this quiet at the time, but when Laura was first having treatment in Germany for brain cancer, Bill Kenwright donated £50,000 to make it possible.

Bill Kenwright died on Monday age 78 succumbing to his eight-year-battle with cancer 

Sunderland fan and mascot Bradley Lowery gives two thumbs-up for a photo. The child struck up a close friendship with striker Jermain Defoe after being diagnosed with a rare cancer 

Cancer campaigner Laura Nuttall poses for a photo with her dog. She died in May

Laura’s mother paid tribute to the Everton Chairman calling him a ‘real gentleman’ 

‘No fuss, no publicity, just genuine kindness from a real gentleman and a true blue. Rest in peace Bill and thank you.’

Bradley’s family said in a touching tribute on Instagram: ‘I am absolutely devastated to hear of the passing of Bill Kenwright, aka, Uncle Bill. Bill was a huge part of Bradley’s fundraising journey. He donated £200,000.00 to Brad’s campaign to access treatment abroad. That money then went into my baby’s amazing charity, on Uncle Bill say so.

‘He was an amazing gentleman, who went above and beyond to help me and my family after Bradley went with the angels, Bill made sure we had time to grieve away from media, and whisked my whole family away so we could spend time together without intrusion.

‘I had many long chats with Bill, always asking his advice, he was one in a million. I will never forget what he did for us.’

Tributes have poured in for the Scouser, with Liverpool among the football clubs paying tribute to the chairman and legendary theatre producers, who had spent a prolonged period intensive care before returning home two weeks ago. 

The director with Andrew Lloyd Webber at a party following the press night for Whistle Down The Wind at the Hilton Green Park in 2006 

Bill Kenwright was a lifelong Evertonian and had been on the club’s board since 1989

Kenwright playing Gordon Clegg in Coronation Street alongside Jennifer Moss as Lucille Hewitt 

He first broke into the theatre world performing on stage at Liverpool Playhouse just age 12, while attending the Liverpool Institute high school at the same as Paul McCaartney and George Harrison.

He made his breakthrough at age 18 when he was cast in Granda TV’s ‘The Villains’ before appearing in several West End musicals.

After a stint on Coronation Street in 1968 he left the soap and began his theatre production company Bill Kenwright Ltd, which went on to become one of the most prolific in the world.

His work saw honoured with a London Theatre Critics’ Award for West Side Story at the Shaftesbury Theatre, while he received a Tony Award for Blood Brothers on Broadway.

But it is his long association and dedication to the blue half of Merseyside that made Kenwright a well known figure to most.   

Everton released a statement yesterday it was in ‘mourning’ following the death of the man who had been on the board since 1989, while their cross-town rivals sent a heartfelt message of condolence. 

Tributes poured in from across the world of football following Kenwright’s death 

Liverpool Football Club and Anfield legend Jamie Carragher shared their sadness at the news

‘Rest in peace, Bill Kenwright.’ The Reds wrote on X, formerly Twitter. ‘The thoughts of everyone at Liverpool FC are with Bill’s family, friends and everyone at Everton.’

Anfield legend and Sky Sports pundit Jamie Carragher also shared his sadness at the news, saying: ‘Really sad news this.

‘A huge Evertonian who served & loved his club to bits. I’ll never forget his & Everton’s support every year around the Hillsborough memorial. RIP Bill. 

Kenwright forged a love affair with the Toffees from an early age, inspired by his idol, the centre forward Dave Hickson. After taking a place on the board in 1989 he was made deputy chairman after buying a 68 per cent majority share of the club from Peter Johnson in 1999.

He succeeded Sir Phillip Carter as Everton chairman in 2004. A year later the club secured a place in the Champions League qualifiers under the guidance of manager David Moyes.

He was persuaded to stay on in the role earlier this year by Farhad Moshiri, who Kenwright sold his stake to in 2016.

Kenwright attending the Cheri press conference during the 59th Berlin International Film Festival at the Grand Hyatt Hotel on February 10, 2009 

Kenwright embracing England star Wayne Rooney in 2015

Rooney hailed the ‘huge impact’ that Kenwright had on his footballing career

Birmingham City boss and former Everton star Wayne Rooney hailed a ‘great man’ in his statement on Kenwright. Rooney burst onto the scene as a youngster exciting the Goodison Park faithful and was keen to highlight the impact of the former chairman in his development. 

‘Devastated to hear the sad news about Bill Kenwright.’ He said. ‘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.’

The EFL were among those sending their condolences. He is survived by his partner Jenny Seagrove,  one daughter from a previous relationship with stage and screen star Virginia Stride, as well as two grandchildren.

‘The EFL is saddened to hear of the passing of Bill Kenwright CBE.’ The statement read. ‘Our collective thoughts are with Bill’s family and friends, as well as everyone at Everton.’ 

Similar tributes were shared by former Everton midfielder Peter Reid and ex-Toffees academy player and Bristol Rovers boss Joey Barton.

Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham described Mr Kenwright as ‘big hearted’ and spoke about his reaction to the Hillsborough disaster where dozens were killed due to a crush at a match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest at Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield on April 15, 1989.

Speaking outside Old Trafford yesterday he said: ‘I saw the care he had for the Hillsborough families when they were going through everything that they went through.

‘That was Bill Kenwright. Before people think about anything else, that was him, that was the man, just somebody of warmth, of generosity.’

Kenwright attending the Off The Rails World Premiere at Odeon Luxe Leicester Square on July 22, 2021 

Kenwright with Virginia Stride in 1971. He had one daughter with her and two grandchildren

Former players, leagues and clubs joined to salute the former Everton chairman

Fond memories and tributes have also flooded in from those in the theatre world who encountered the successful former producer during their time on stage. 

Among them was Lord of the Rings star Sir Ian McKellen, who said he, like many actors, was in debt to Kenwright as well as insisting the industry would be ‘dimmer’ following his death. 

‘Like many grateful actors I am in debt to Bill Kenwright for employment.’ McKellen wrote. ”Frank & Percy’ at his ‘The Other Palace’ will be his last theatre production. And ‘The Critic,’ will be his last film.

‘We were young together, when he was in Coronation Street and I was dipping a toe into Shaftesbury Avenue. Since then, I have admired the resilient way in which he encouraged theatre to thrive in London and in the regions.

‘Whether it was yet another tour of that wonderful musical ‘Blood Brothers’ or sponsoring the Peter Hall Company in the classics. In private, Bill relished gossip and loved to reminisce.

‘He seemed to have known everyone in the business and to care about them. Yet every chat would vere round to his equal passion – Everton football. The city that gave us The Beatles and two major football teams, also bred a unique impresario.

Hollywood star Sir Ian McKellen paid a touching tribute to Kenwright 

‘Whether the West End lights will be turned off in his memory, certainly our business will be dimmer now he has gone.’ 

Sir Ian, 84, had starred in the 2023 film The Critic which had been co-produced by Mr Kenwright.  

Comedian Jason Manford also led tributes to the ‘always funny and honest’ producer. 

The comedian spoke of the producer’s ‘love’ for theatre and football in a post to X, formerly Twitter. He said: ‘Saddened to hear Bill Kenwright has died.

‘Met up with him several times over the years as we attempted to work together so very sad that will now never happen. Was always funny and honest and with a deep love for theatre and football. Will be sadly missed.’

Also paying tribute to the theatre giant was comedian and actor Julian Clary, who said he would be ‘forever grateful’ to Kenwright.

He said: ‘RIP Bill Kenwright. I’m forever grateful to him for giving me the chance to play the Emcee in Cabaret at the Lyric Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue in 2007.

‘After the first night he said to me ‘You’re so brave…so brave!”

Meanwhile singer Antony Costa, known for being a member of boyband Blue, also posted to X and said: ‘Just heard the news my friend, and mentor and the person who gave me the chance to perform on stage Mr Bill Kenwright has passed away.

‘You were one in a million Sir… we loved talking football R.I.P Bill xx’

Kenwright’s stake eventually fell to 1.3 per cent back in 2018. He had become an unpopular figure with large sections of the club’s supporters amid Everton’s struggles on the pitch.

He published an open letter to fan groups earlier this year, denying claims his health issues had impacted the running of the club. He continued to carry out his duties up until his surgery in August.

This included working alongside Moshiri to facilitate the proposed takeover by the investment group 777 Partners and supporting the club’s football director Kevin Thelwell with its summer transfer activity. 

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