4 September 1945 |
Liverpool, Lancashire, England, United Kingdom
Football club chairman
|Bill Kenwright Productions|
He attended Booker Avenue County Primary School, and then Liverpool Institute High School from 1957 to 1964 and appeared in school productions (including Shylock in The Merchant of Venice) on the stage in the Mount St. building (predecessor to LIPA). He was also treasurer of the Christian Union at school.
- 1 Theatre
- 2 Film
- 3 Music
- 4 Actor
- 5 Everton Football Club
- 6 Personal life
- 7 Honours
- 8 References
- 9 External links
Kenwright is one of the UK's most successful theatre producers, best known for the long-running West End hit Blood Brothers and the record breaking tour of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Other recent productions have included West End runs of Whistle Down The Wind at the Palace Theatre, Festen in London, on a UK tour and now on Broadway, The Big Life, Elmina's Kitchen, Scrooge – The Musical, The Night of the Iguana, A Few Good Men, A Man For All Seasons alongside UK tours of Jesus Christ Superstar, Tommy, Whistle Down The Wind, Tell Me on a Sunday and This Is Elvis. He produced the London revival of Cabaret at the Lyric Theatre in September 2006, starring Anna Maxwell Martin, James Dreyfus and Sheila Hancock.
He has helped start the careers of many current West End theatre producers, including Mark Rubinstein and Marc Sinden. It has been estimated that he employs more actors in a year than any employer other than the BBC.
Current and recent productions include:
- Blood Brothers – Phoenix Theatre, London and on UK National Tour, starring Helen Hobson and Steven Houghton
- Cabaret – Savoy Theatre, London with Will Young, Michelle Ryan and Sian Phillips
- Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat – Adelphi Theatre, London with Lee Mead winner of BBC1 Any Dream Will Do
- Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat – UK National Tour – currently starring Ian "H" Watkins as 'Joseph'
- The Wizard of Oz – London Palladium, London (2011)
- Jekyll and Hyde – UK National Tour (2011)
- 2014 Broken (producer) (currently filming)
- 2011 Dixie: The People's Legend (executive producer) (in post-production)
- 2009 Chéri (producer)
- 2004 The Purifiers (producer)
- 2003 The Boys from County Clare (executive producer)
- 2003 Die, Mommie, Die! (producer)
- 2001 Zoe (producer)
- 1999 Don't Go Breaking My Heart (producer)
- 1991 Stepping Out (executive producer)
Kenwright has his own record label (Bill Kenwright Records), which has released three albums as of February 2008. The London Palladium cast recording of Scrooge starring Tommy Steele and the 2006 Lyric Theatre Recording of Cabaret were joined in February 2008 by the debut album of Kenwright's new boy group Dream On.
He began his music career in a band known as The Chevrolets'. Perhaps less known is Kenwright's recording career both solo and with a group Bill Kenwright and the Runaways:
- "I want to go back there again"/"Walk through dreams" Columbia DB8239 (August 1967)
and solo, as Bill Kenwright:
- "Love's Black & White"/"Giving Up" MGM 1430 (July 1968)
- "Tiggy"/"House That Fell On Its Face" MGM 1463 (November 1968)
- "Baby I could be so good at loving"/"Boy & A Girl" MGM 1478 (January 1969)
- "Sugar Man"/"Epitaph"/"When Times Were Good" Fontana TF 1065 (October 1969)
In 1969, Kenwright tried his hand at record production, producing 2 singles for Manchester band 'Money', who also worked as his backing band for several cabaret gigs in Oldham and at 'Allinsons' Liverpool. The first record, Come Laughing Home, was the title music for Kenwright's first foray into theatrical production with Reginald Marsh (also a Coronation Street Star) as co-producer. The show starred Anne Reid who at the time was playing Valerie Barlow in Coronation Street. It was the first time a Coronation Street star worked in live theatre whilst still in the series. The show opened at Blackpool's Grand Theatre. The single was also released in Argentina.
As a young man he became an actor. His early successes included a role in Coronation Street, as Gordon Clegg who was introduced in April 1968. Kenwright left the show after a year to pursue his producing career in March 1969, although he did return to the show on occasion throughout the 1970s for guest appearances. He had brief stints in other shows, such as The Villains and The Liver Birds and in Carry On films.
Everton Football Club
Kenwright is the current chairman of Everton Football Club, whom he used to watch as a boy at Goodison Park. He succeeded Littlewoods director Philip Carter in the role. Kenwright has been on the Everton board since 1989. He became the second largest shareholder in 1999, when Peter Johnson sold his shareholding after the Football Association told to him sell his interests in either Tranmere Rovers or Everton. He became the largest stakeholder in the club in 2004.
Scottish international forward Andy Gray reported in his autobiography that the Everton board were ready to offer Gray the job as manager in August 1997, but Kenwright, then director, had wanted to appoint Howard Kendall as manager for a third time. Gray would decide not to become Everton manager and Kendall was appointed.
1994 buyout proposal
Kenwright became involved in a consortium to buy Everton in 1994, as his consortium rivalled Birkenhead-based Peter Johnson. Kenwright's consortium had assurances from the Everton owner's family head Lady Grantchester that the Moores family would sell their stake in the club. Kenwright's proposal was dismissed as "The Manchester Consortium" in the Liverpool Echo, as the rivalry between Liverpool and Manchester was enough to deter supporter's support. Kenwright's consortium included Manchester based Tom Cannon, Tony Tighe (who later went on to create The Everton Collection) and Mike Dyble whilst building magnate Arthur Abercromby was Cheshire based. Abercromby offered a £2 million interest free loan to the club for purchase of players.
Kenwright, who had been a director at Everton for ten years, had an opportunity to sway the board members to accept his bid but chose not to because he did not want a public relations battle with the more affluent Johnson. Tighe, in an interview with a journalist David Conn, said: "Bill didn't want a public row, that's why he didn't go to press much. He wanted the board to be unanimous. As he saw it, he didn't want Everton's name to be dragged through controversy." Peter Johnson's bid was accepted by the Everton board. Johnson installed Kenwright as vice-chairman and Sir Philip Carter was re-instated as Chairman.
1999 buyout proposal and True Blue Holdings
Kenwright's consortium bought 68% of Everton FC from Peter Johnson for £20 million in 1999. A holding company called True Blue (Holdings) Ltd was formed in January 2000. The stakeholders in True Blue Holdings included Paul Gregg, Jimmy Mulville, Jon Woods and Willy Russell before it was dissolved in 2004. Mihir Bose reported that Anita Gregg lent up to £7 million to Kenwright. Upon completion of the deal, Kenwright said: "Acquiring Peter Johnson's shares is only the first step to restoring a great club to where it belongs – to where it should be. If you are going to run a successful football club you need two qualities: you need to be realistic and you need a plan. I'm realistic and I have a plan."
In 2003, he attempted to relocate Everton to the Kings Dock on the riverside but after a public feud with director Paul Gregg over the proposal's finances and sale of Wayne Rooney, the move fell through. Gregg had wanted to keep Rooney at the club and Kenwright reluctantly felt it was best he be sold to ease the club's financial burden. Paul and Anita Gregg later sold their shares to Florida-based businessman Robert Earl. Kenwright's close-friend Philip Green is believed to have helped him secure the club after being approached for help.
On 1 June 2004, Kenwright became chairman of Everton Football Club. On the same day, Trevor Birch was appointed Chief Executive Officer to replace the outgoing Michael Dunford. Kenwright said that Birch would be his "sounding board" and that the new CEO should "dictate the policy of the football club". Kenwright stated that Birch had not been brought in to sell the club, but that a new investor can have his shares as long as they "have money to run the club". Birch resigned six weeks later. He resigned after a meeting with True Blue Holding (Kenwright, Woods, Gregg and Abercromby) where the board opted to not to sell the club. Gregg claimed there was a refusal to relinquish control by other directors and that it was preventing progress at the club.
Fortress Sports Fund
In August 2004, it was reported that a Brunei-based fund Fortess Sports Fund (FSF) were interested in buying a stake in Everton. Following the public fall-out with director Paul Gregg, it was anticipated that Gregg's shares in addition to others would be sold to the fund. Kenwright and Everton director Jon Woods were in favour of accepting the investment whilst Paul Gregg was sceptical and refused to endorse it. Gregg believed that the fund under-valued his investment, it was reported that the fund's bid was £12.8 million for 29.9% of the club.
In February 2005, Keith Wyness stated that the club had begun to look for other potential investors. In April 2005, Samuelson stated that "the Fund is completed and registered" but Everton director Paul Gregg publicly questioned the FSF: "As a director I have not received any proof of funds – or that they even exist." The Liverpool Echo described the FSF situation as a "farce". Paul Gregg stated that he had been "led down the garden path and that the whole exercise has embarrassed the club." Samuelson re-iterated that funds were ready; "The fund is approved and ready to go. I have not received the actual certificate of incorporation of the fund but that is a technicality." He stated that an EGM was necessary to confirm the FSF fund. "As far as I'm concerned it's a fait accompli – subject to the approval of an EGM of shareholders." An EGM was never called and the question of investment into Everton from the FSF fell away from the public eye.
In November 2005, at the following AGM. Kenwright said that Samuelson "was someone who I believed could have come up with the money, he had his credentials and thought he could come up with a deal that was good for the club ... but he didn't, like many many other people, come up with the goods." He added: "I am spending 24 hours a day trying to raise finance for this club. I had a meeting today, three yesterday, all involving money that would dilute my shareholding – but I'm not interested in that." 
2004 Extraordinary General Meeting
By September 2004, concerns amongst fans had grown about the future of the club. An Extraordinary General Meeting was called by shareholders; "The shareholders of the Company express their deep concern at the current state of affairs in the Company". It called for the board of directors to resign if they did not address previous motions to the satisfaction of shareholders Kenwright is considered approachable by fans and prior to the EGM he contacted a fan website before the press regarding the meeting.
2007 Extraordinary General Meeting
In 2007, Kenwright announced that he would like to relocate the club to Kirkby as part of a proposal known as Destination Kirkby which included a Tesco supermarket and a retail park. The pursuit of this project led to minor shareholders of the club calling for an Extraordinary General Meeting in 2008. After it was confirmed that the EGM would go ahead, Keith Wyness resigned and was replaced by Robert Elstone who was promoted to the position from within.
At this meeting, Kenwright revealed that he took business advice from retail industry leaders Sir Philip Green and Sir Terry Leahy. The EGM vote determined that the club should not pursue the project due to a growing number of concerns.
Kenwright was married to actress Anouska Hempel from 1978 to 1980 and has a daughter and two grandchildren from his relationship with the actress Virginia Stride. He is currently in a long-term relationship with actress and political activist Jenny Seagrove. They live in London. The West End theatre publicist Adam Kenwright is his nephew who runs advertising and marketing company aka. Adam worked with Kenwright before setting up on his own.
In November 2008 he was awarded an Honorary degree of Doctor of Letters from Nottingham Trent University in recognition of his outstanding contribution and commitment to British theatre.
On 3 January 2014, Kenwright appeared on the BBC show Pointless Celebrities. He and his partner Jenny Seagrove reached the final and won the Pointless trophy, but gave three incorrect answers and missed out on the £2,500 jackpot.
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- Hunter, Andy (14 July 2004). "BIRCH QUITS; Birch resigns after Blues board refuse to sell club". Liverpool Echo.
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- "Blues' new investors". Liverpool Echo. 3 February 2005.
- Prentice, David (5 April 2004). "Gregg: I'm not the issue in Fund farce; Gregg's fund blast.". Liverpool Echo.
- Prior, David (5 April 2004). "Boardroom battle may resurface at Goodison; Gregg lining up rival investment as Fortress deal still not settled". Liverpool Echo.
- Prior, David (25 November 2005). "Search for investment goes on as Fortress fails; Kenwright tells AGM of '24 hours a day' finance quest.". Liverpool Echo.
- "Bill Kenwright". Nsno.co.uk. 27 September 2004. Retrieved 31 May 2009.
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- "EGM Date Confirmed". evertonfc.com. 7 August 2008. Retrieved 31 May 2009.
- "EGM resolution defeated" http://www.evertonfc.com/news/archive/egm-resolution-defeated.html
- "Notes from the Director 1". Tabacula. 23 April 2008. Retrieved 19 November 2009.
- Bill Kenwright Productions
- Bill Kenwright at the Internet Movie Database
- 9 video of Kenwright on "great" new "musical star" Lee Mead, whom BBC One viewers had chosen by phone vote minutes earlier to play the lead role in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat