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Disquiet Grows At Everton Over Keith Wyness Exit

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Everton’s troubled pre-season took another twist yesterday when it emerged that Keith Wyness, the former chief executive, quit Goodison Park last month because of the growing influence of Sir Philip Green, the retail magnate, on the club. Wyness was linked with a similar role at Real Mallorca, but while he visited the Balearic island after parting company with Everton, it was for a showdown meeting with Robert Earl, the Planet Hollywood founder who owns 23 per cent of the Merseyside club, and Green, who has consistently denied any financial involvement in them.


Wyness had become increasingly concerned by Green’s input at Everton. Financial information about the club was regularly passed to the billionaire, who has no official role at Goodison, and club officials have been summoned to conferences with Green at the headquarters of Bhs, which Green owns, in London to discuss strategy. After leaving the club, Wyness went to Majorca, where an acrimonious meeting took place. The two sides failed to agree on a severance package and Wyness is believed to be planning to take Everton to an industrial tribunal.


In the aftermath of Wyness’s departure, there were suggestions that the chief executive had stood down because of controversy surrounding Everton’s desire to move from Goodison Park to a new stadium in Kirkby, outside the Liverpool city boundary, or concerns about the financial future of the club. However, the sole reason for Wyness’s resignation was his disquiet over Green’s influence.


Green has a longstanding relationship with Bill Kenwright, the Everton chairman. He turned down the opportunity to buy a stake in the club two years ago, recommending Earl as a buyer instead.


It has been a summer of turmoil on all fronts at Everton. The club expect to hear later in the week whether their plans to relocate to Kirkby will be subject to government review. Should the £400 million scheme, in conjunction with Tesco, be called in for further scrutiny, it could hold up the move for at least a year — or even kill the project completely. Wyness was the driving force behind the plans to leave Goodison, although Everton deny that his departure will have any effect on the situation.


It has been a frustrating close season for David Moyes. The manager has been unable to bring in any new players and has expressed his anger at his inability to strengthen the squad. With money short, Moyes has been forced to sell Andrew Johnson, whose protracted move to Fulham should be completed today despite concerns raised by the London club about an old knee injury after the striker’s medical. The initial fee is likely to be about £5 million, after some renegotiation over the structure of the transfer, although Everton could still receive up to £13 million, depending on the player’s success at Craven Cottage.


Sporting Lisbon’s £16 million valuation of João Moutinho is prohibitive, although Moyes remains eager to land the Portugal midfield player, as well as Stéphane Mbia, Rennes’s £5 million-rated Cameroon midfield player. Any move for Diego Milito is likely to hinge on the Johnson deal going through and Real Zaragoza lowering their valuation of the Argentina striker, 29.


For Wyness, the future is equally uncertain. Reports that he was to take up a new role with Mallorca were premature. The £40 million sale of the Spanish club to Paul Davidson — the pipe-fitting tycoon known in City circles as “The Plumber” — is still in its early stages and may not be completed for a number of weeks. Although Davidson and Wyness are old friends, there is no job offer on the table and the former Goodison chief executive is furious at suggestions that he was working on behalf of Davidson while employed by Everton.

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