Kenwright on the brink as rival turns up heat

The Everton crisis: Rooney's future remains the backdrop as emergency meeting is called and True Blue chairman is urged to stand aside to make way for new investors

There is a picture that has thrown the crisis at the heart of Everton Football Club into the open. It's an image - innocuous enough - which could lead to the break-up of the company who control the club, a takeover by new investors and the departure of chairman Bill Kenwright.

There is a picture that has thrown the crisis at the heart of Everton Football Club into the open. It's an image - innocuous enough - which could lead to the break-up of the company who control the club, a takeover by new investors and the departure of chairman Bill Kenwright.

The picture is of Everton director Paul Gregg signing a new shirt-sponsorship deal in Bangkok. Next season, Everton will be backed by Thai Breweries, with the brand Chang Beer on their shirts, in a deal worth £1.5m. Hardly in the same league as Manchester United, or Liverpool, and lasting just one year.

That may tell its own story about the state of Everton. But it's the presence of the otherwise anonymous Gregg, the wealthiest shareholder, that provoked debate back on Merseyside. The influential local newspaper, the Liverpool Echo, took notice. Just who was he? Its sports pages have been buzzing, especially with the departure of the club's chief executive, Trevor Birch, after just six weeks, and an editorial was published: "Someone must take charge of the situation - quick".

Gregg, 62 and worth £127m, had also grown alarmed. He is no football fan, and didn't attend a game last season. Supporters have constantly questioned his commitment. Indeed, Gregg's involvement stems purely from his long-standing friendship, through the theatre world, with Kenwright, which goes back to the 1970s when they collaborated at Southport's Floral Hall. But, as Gregg has told friends, he doesn't need to be a fan to see that things are going wrong. And Gregg thinks Kenwright is simply in denial.

There is also, despite Gregg's protestations, his £7.5m invest-ment to defend and Everton's £35m-worth of debt. Interest alone is £2.8m a year. So Gregg, emboldened, from his Far East trip and negotiations back on Merseyside, by the knowledge that he could bring in £15m of outside investment, and planning a £15m fans' share issue, broke cover. The day after the editorial he called the Echo, explained his five-year plan, and the battle lines were drawn.

In the middle was Wayne Rooney. Birch wanted to sell him to generate cash, Kenwright was reluctantly concurring if a bid were high enough, and Gregg used this as an opportunity to state his sadness. With his showbusiness dealings, Gregg has always believed in one thing. Star names. That is why when he announced the Thai deal he stood before a huge photograph on Rooney. Losing The Kid, he said, would be an indictment of Everton.

Something had to change, and that something, he clinically concluded, was the dissolution of True Blue Holdings, who own 72 per cent of the shares... and the removal of Kenwright. Gregg hit home. An email was sent to Kenwright and directors Jon Woods, a Kenwright supporter, and Arthur Abercromby, who resigned last week, on Thursday. They - along with Gregg's wife Anita - make up True Blue, formed in 2001.

The email spoke of the "frustration" Gregg felt in "being unable to persuade you that we needed new investment which I believe would only be forthcoming if you were prepared to relinquish control of the club". At present, Gregg said, it was impossible to attract investors, as they would get little in return. He added that stepping down would "renew your support on Merseyside and return credibility to the fan and shareholder base".

A board meeting will take place tomorrow afternoon. Even more damaging for Kenwright, a passionate, committed supporter, is the backing Gregg appears to have garnered from the fans. A petition has been delivered demanding an extraordinary general meeting, and this must take place between 13 August and 17 September. It will probably happen sooner rather than later and, right now, it is difficult to see Kenwright surviving even if he is not the type to succumb to pressure of this sort.

"To me, it is not a question of Bill Kenwright or Paul Gregg but the principle of whether we can carry on with True Blue Holdings, which appears fundamentally flawed and has shown it cannot work together as a team," says Steve Alinson, chairman of the Everton Shareholders' Association.

Support has swung behind Gregg because he at least appears to offer an alternative. As one club source put it: "It's a case of move over Bill or we're going down. It seems he cannot see the wood for the trees." It has been a difficult summer for Kenwright. Next Saturday his latest production, which has bombed at the Gielgud Theatre, closes three months early. It's called We Happy Few. Not a title that could be applied to the Everton board.

But, typically, he is fighting back. Kenwright, suspecting Gregg simply wants his money back, is trying to secure investors and must be frustrated at the lack of details over Gregg's investment plans. A friend of Kenwright, the billionaire Philip Green, may be approached, while shareholders such as Jimmy Mulville could up their stake; but, although wealthy, Mulville is not in the financial league needed.

Today Kenwright will continue talks with Rooney's agent, Paul Stretford, over the £13m, five-year contract the 18-year-old has on offer. Kenwright would dearly love to tie that down now but is aware that Stretford wants to stall until the end of the transfer window on 31 August to see what is offered elsewhere. Kenwright can't let that happen. He has also moved to replace Birch, with Aberdeen's chief executive, Keith Wyness, in the frame and, finally, players are being signed.

Astonishingly, 16 have left, with just two so far arriving. Following the signing of Millwall's Tim Cahill and departure to Fulham of Tomasz Radzinski, talks were opened on Thursday with PSV Eindhoven's Mark van Bommel, but that may mean Thomas Gravesen, with just a year on his contract, is sold.

After all, the manager, David Moyes, has just £1.5m, including wages, in his transfer kitty. It's one out and one in - which is almost impossible with just 22 professionals on Everton's books. The situation, compounded by the club's need for a new stadium and Liverpool's refusal to ground- share, makes a further mockery of the £7m bid for Alan Smith. Despite their claims, Everton never had the money. "A PR disaster," moaned one source, who said it only added to the pressure.

Moyes's own position, despite the rumblings of players such as Radzinski, his sometimes abrasive style and the fact that Everton achieved their lowest points total last season in their 115-year history, is absolutely secure. They need him to stay, even if Portugal's coach, Luis Felipe Scolari, claims he was approached as a replacement. Moyes, currently on the club's tour to Texas, is frustrated and would welcome change at the top. "Something will have to give here," he said after the 5-1 defeat to Manchester City which closed last season.

Instead, things have got worse. "Everton could be relegated because of boardroom upheaval, part-time ownership and full-time shambles," says Ian MacDonald, the vice-president of the Everton Independent Supporters' Club. Both Gregg and Kenwright would, in their hearts, struggle to disagree. With their theatrical backgrounds, they know they have turned a drama into a crisis.

Suggested Topics
News
The Banksy image in Folkestone before it was vandalised
people
Life and Style
tech

Sales of the tablet are set to fall again, say analysts

News
Brian Harvey turned up at Downing Street today demanding to speak to the Prime Minister
news

Met Police confirm that there was a 'minor disturbance'

Life and Style
A street vendor in Mexico City sells Dorilocos, which are topped with carrot, jimaca, cucumber, peanuts, pork rinds, spices and hot sauce
food + drink

Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
George Lucas poses with a group of Star Wars-inspired Disney characters at Disney's Hollywood Studios in 2010
films

George Lucas criticises the major Hollywood film studios

Sport
football West Brom vs Man Utd match report: Blind grabs point, but away form a problem for Van Gaal
Arts and Entertainment
Bloom Time: Mira Sorvino
tvMira Sorvino on leaving movie roles for 'The Intruders'
Arts and Entertainment
Gotham is coming to UK shores this autumn
tvGotham, episode 2, review
News
i100
News
First woman: Valentina Tereshkova
peopleNASA guinea pig Kate Greene thinks it might fly
Voices
Chris Grayling, Justice Secretary: 'There are pressures which we are facing but there is not a crisis'
voices

Does Chris Grayling realise what a vague concept he is dealing with?

Life and Style
The charity Sands reports that 11 babies are stillborn everyday in the UK
lifeEleven babies are stillborn every day in the UK, yet no one speaks about this silent tragedy
News
Blackpool is expected to become one of the first places to introduce the Government’s controversial new Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs)
news

Parties threaten resort's image as a family destination

Life and Style
Northern soul mecca the Wigan Casino
fashionGone are the punks, casuals, new romantics, ravers, skaters, crusties. Now all kids look the same
Life and Style
gaming

I Am Bread could actually be a challenging and nuanced title

Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Salisbury ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities

The city is home to one of the four surviving copies of the Magna Carta, along with the world’s oldest mechanical clock
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album