Everton chairman Bill Kenwright dies aged 78
Bill Kenwright, who has died at age 78, was a man of many talents, including that of a football boss, but it was his turn as Gordon Clegg during his nearly half-century run on Coronation Street that was his top goal for soap fans.
The Liverpool-born star, who was also a successful theatre and film producer when he joined the Everton FC board as chairman in 1989, arrived in Manchester almost 50 years ago intending to enrol in university but ended up auditioning for Corrie at Granada Studios.
He got his big break on the cobbles as Gordon Clegg, the son of Betty Williams who was raised by his aunt Maggie and her husband Les.
His first episode hit screens in April 1968 and he spent just one year on the show before quitting the role for a career as a producer.
However, he was such a viewer favourite that show bosses encouraged him to return to the iconic soap several times as a guest star throughout his life.
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His character was part of some major storylines over his first 12 months on the soap in the 1960s, including living in the flat above the Corner Shop with his aunt Maggie and her husband Les.
His most notable episode, however, was his return to announce Betty’s death in 2012.
In one significant scene, at Betty’s wake in The Rovers Return, he read out a letter from her thanking all her friends for all the good years before handing another letter to barman Sean, which contained her secret hotpot recipe.
He also went on to have a relationship with Lucille Hewitt and the pair planned a wedding.
However, after Gordon passed his accountancy exams, he ended the engagement with a devastated Lucille, cancelled the wedding and escaped to London for a job.
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Bill was also one of the UK’s most successful theatre producers, best known for the long-running West End hits Blood Brothers and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat.
Other productions included Whistle Down the Wind at the Palace Theatre, The Big Life, Elmina’s Kitchen, Scrooge – The Musical, The Night of the Iguana and This is Elvis.
He also kick-started the careers of many current West End producers and his efforts were rewarded in 2008 when he received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Theatrical Management Association.
His death was announced on Tuesday afternoon in a statement from Everton on the club’s website. It read: “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…
“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.”
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