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Thoughts from the Editor

What's wrong with Blue Bill?
6 January 2006

I was just wondering if someone could explain to me why people have an immense dislike for Bill Kenwright?

As far as I can see, Bill is an Evertonian and that is indisputable. The only two alleged faults I can think of are the Rooney deal, for which there is little real evidence of dodgy dealing, and the supposed involvement of Wyness using the club for personal business. I know little of the Wyness story and, if it is true, would be quite annoyed, but the hatred for Kenwright was long before this and I am at a loss for the reason.

Perhaps I am being nave and I would love to be enlightened. However, as far as I can see, Kenwright is a blue and would never do anything to intentionally harm the club. The only crime I can see that he's committed is not being rich enough to own a Premiership football club, but he has continually said he's looking for investment and would sell if the right buyer came along. With the Fortress Sports Fund deal, Kenwright tried to get the best deal possible for Everton when we were in a position of strength, and I would personally do the same.

As I've stated previously, I would love to be enlightened and would like some feedback as to the reason for the hatred of Blue Bill?
Tom Bennett
, Coventry, (3/1/06)

Blue Bill: Loved? or Not?

I guess Bill Kenwright has one of those polarizing personalities: you love him or you hate him.  For those who love him, it's enough that he is a Blue "just like us", that he rescued the club from the evil clutches of Agent Johnson when no-one else would, and won't hear a bad word said against him. 

But what has Bill Kenwright actually done that other Evertonians are critical of?  There are a multitude of things Tom.  You're quite correct that the man doesn't seem to be able to provide the kind of investment we need out of his own pockets.  With the Roman Abramovich's of this world providing blank cheques to our competitors it remains to be seen if Bill would stand aside should the right opportunity came Everton's way.  Russian Billionaires aside, it is quite frustrating that even teams like Spurs and Liverpool, who haven't been overly successful in recent years, still seem to be able to bring in the players they need when they need them, yet the Goodison Park waiting room sofa has been known to be tipped up for loose change during the transfer windows.

But, for many of his detractors, the fact that Bill Kenwright was on the Everton Board of Directors all though the years of decline, from the late-eighties onwards, is an indictment in itself.  The Board as whole is deemed culpable for overseeing the fall from a tremendous position of power and influence as one of the Top Five clubs in England, one of the instigators of the Premier League breakaway.  Is it fair to blame Blue Bill for that?  Perhaps not, as Sir Philip Carter was far more involved, and oversaw our demise more directly.

In conjuring up his bid for taking over control of Everton that was accepted by Peter Johnson in 1998, it can be easily argued that the scene was set for years of frugal development and lack of investment that would inevitably follow.  The reason is that Bill clearly didn't have anywhere near enough money of his own to take over the Club.  Which is why he persuaded his good friend, Paul Gregg, who was and is not a "football" person, to partner with him via the highly dubious vehicle of True Blue Holdings. 

There are concerns about Bill Kenwright's continuing desire to maintain control over the club, despite his extremely limited fiscal constraints.  This has arguably prevented investment from other rich and perhaps better qualified Evertonians and/or potential investors people like Lord Grantchester and Sir Terence Leahy.  There is no direct evidence for this but there are rumoured suggestions that numerous approaches have been made to Bill Kenwright, and that he has been the stumbling block.  No-one wants to pump in vast amounts of money to watch it get frittered away; they want control along with it: they want places on the board, they want new share issues that would dilute Bill's already minority personal holding, and they want places o the Board.  

Then along came Kings Dock.  What a fabulous opportunity!  Bill talked it up no end.  The gushing was unstoppable.  We could have an absolutely fantastic $300M stadium facility ours for an investment of just 30M.  Too good to be true?  So it turned out.  The King's Dock stadium project fell through after many assurances by Kenwright that the money was in the bank "ring-fenced".  Again, his credibility was dented.  The debacle over the King's Dock was such a wonderful dream; the let-down inevitably harmed Bill's relationship with Evertonians, even though he did his best to deflect the blame to others.

There is the whole business of Michael Dunford; Kenwright's lapdog who was maintained as Club Secretary and even elevated to the role of CEO for which he was quite unsuited.  Dunford, it turns out, also had plenty of shares in Paul Stretford's ProActive / Formation Group a revelation made to Bill Kenwright by concerned shareholders in the 2004 AGM that he doubted, even though it was true.

Then there was the Fortress Sports Fund fiasco, and that did his credibility no good whatsoever.  Bill had finally found some investors who would underwrite Everton's golden future.  And the scheme was led by "life-long Evertonian" Christopher Samuleson who was famously embarrassed by another quick-thinking shareholder, asking him to name the player who scored the winning goal for Everton in the 1966 FA Cup Final!!!  Bill Kenwright had stated many times, hand in hand with Chris Samuelson, that they would be providing a major investment.  Even to this day we have not had a statement from Kenwright explaining what happened.  The Fortress Sports Fund was "a means to an end", in the words of then Head of Public Relations, Ian Ross.  The entire charade was designed to prevent rival director Paul Gregg putting together a consortium in a bid to wrestle control away from Bill.  FSF never existed. 

Some Evertonians feel that Blue Bill was highly culpable in the sale of Wayne Rooney, and that this was engineered to provide key income for the club at a critical time in other words that Wayne Rooney was sacrificed to save the club.  The story is a difficult one to assemble convincingly because no-one is really talking.  But Bill himself famously said that Wayne Rooney was a priceless asset.  50M would not be enough to see his transfer from Everton.  Just a few months later, Kenwright had sold Rooney for a mere 10M downpayment, rising to 20M and perhaps more dependent on the success of his new club, Manchester United. 

Some Evertonians will never forgive Bill Kenwright for overseeing the sale of the greatest potential talent to ever work his way up through the ranks of the Everton Youth Academy.  There are a lot of other factors in the Rooney story, not least the role of his agent Paul Stretford, the machinations of his ProActive agency in engineering a move (the hooker revelations, the dreadful feature series in The Sun of all things!), the role of other players on the books of Proactive (Stubbs, Campbell, even Ferguson) doing their part to help push Wayne Rooney out of the club. 

Keith Wyness is a tough one.  While he was brought in as new CEO to great fanfare, there were some dubious parts of his CV regarding questionable money-making schemes for the Australian Olympics, and there have been numerous issues since his appointment as Bill's right-hand man that have caused factions of the Everton fanbase to go apoplectic:

  • The ticketing fiasco for Leyton Orient
  • The treatment of life-long season-ticket holders kicked out of their prime seats at Goodison Park to make way for largely unused corporate facilities.
  • The bungled ticketing arrangements for the Villarreal home leg
  • The highly suspect second plane that never came for Dinamo Bucharest 

While not strictly issues for which Bill is directly culpable, some maintain Bill Kenwright carries guilt by association for these heinous crimes against the fans.  Undoubtedly the man is as blue as they come but he constantly seems to hog the limelight and flood us with soundbytes when things are going right but then he goes into hiding when he's most needed.  The man has been the custodian of Everton now for seven years, during which time the club's overall debt has grown year on year and we're still waiting for any of his promises to be fulfilled. We have not even mentioned the long-delayed Youth academy...

The most astounding thing about Keith Wyness, and this is something Bill himself has sanctioned, is that our CEO is allowed to pursue potential investors in Everton with a view to striking his own personal deals, a carte blanche from the Club to line his own pockets!!!  How on earth Bill could have agreed to such a disgusting arrangement beggars belief.  But when taken to task on this issue by a shareholder at the last AGM, Wyness said this was indeed a provision within his contract with EFC.  Un-believable!

And then there's Blue Bill's latest gem regarding the adopted Liverpool anthem, You'll Never Walk Alone.  A statement of unbelievable insensitivity to his fellow humans who happen to be rabid Evertonians that detest that song and everything it stands for. 

Other items we have published relating to these topics include:

Despite everything, however, should he stand down as Chairman and sell up?  That cannot be contemplated without serious consideration about his replacement.  Bill hasn't been our new John Moores but nor has he been a Peter Johnson and unless we could be sure that any new owners or investors were guaranteed to do a far better job, then perhaps it's better with the devil you know....


Michael Kenrick & Garry Sheils

2006 ToffeeWeb


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