Former owner of Everton and Tranmere Rovers football clubs and founder of Christmas hampers firm Park Group, Peter Johnson, dies aged 84. Tony McDonough reports
Merseyside businessman Peter Johnson has died aged 84, his family announced on Wednesday.
In the 1960s Mr Johnson started a Christmas Savings Club out of his family butchers business in Birkenhead. It later became Park Group offering Christmas hampers and saving to people across the UK.
He later sold the business and it rebranded as Appreciate Group and moved its headquarters to Liverpool city centre. In recent years it has closed the hampers operation to focus on corporate vouchers and Christmas savings.
At one point his personal fortune was estimated at £150m. In 1987 Mr Johnson took over Tranmere Rovers FC in his native Wirral. He took the Fourth Division outfit up to the old Second Division.
While still owner of Tranmere he took control of Everton in 1994. However the Football Association ruled he could not have a controlling interest in more than one club and in December 1999 he sold his 68% stake to Bill Kenwright for £20m. Mr Kenwright died in October 2023.
His focus then returned to Tranmere and in 2000 the team went on a successful run in the League Cup. They were beaten 2-1 by Leicester City in the final. He sold his controlling interest in the club to Mark and Nicola Palios in 2014.
Mr Johnson also set up the Johnson Foundation to support communities across Merseyside. His family said in a statement: “It is with great sadness that the Johnson family share the news that Peter Johnson has today passed away at the age of 84.
“Peter died peacefully surrounded by his partner, Mel, and daughters, Susie, Kate and Charlotte.
“A devoted father, grandfather and great-grandfather, Peter was the centre of our world and always happiest when surrounded by his friends and relatives.
His impact though spread much further than his family, with his charitable work at home, through the Johnson Foundation, benefitting thousands of people throughout the Liverpool City Region and raising more than £10m for local causes.
“He was also proud of his achievements in the business world where he established and turned a hamper company into Park Group PLC and also spent time as owner and chairman of both Tranmere Rovers and Everton football clubs.
“At Tranmere he guided the Club from Division Four to Division Two and the brink of the Premier League along with five trips to Wembley Stadium, while at Everton he proudly watched the Club win the FA Cup in 1995.
“He will be hugely missed by the entire family and we will be forever grateful to have had him in our lives.”
Tranmere Rovers also issued a statement expressing its “enormous sadness” at the news. Chairman Mark Palios added: “Peter became owner and chairman just as I finished as a player at Tranmere.
“But our paths crossed professionally and socially on many occasions over the years, and the personal friendship grew stronger when Nicola and I took over the reins from him in 2014.
“He had a sharp business brain, an equally sharp wit, but also a deep sense of commitment to helping his local community. Without his intervention in the 1980s, there may well literally not have been a Tranmere Rovers today.
“Everyone who loves the club owes him an enormous debt of gratitude and I will miss him hugely. Thank you for everything Peter, and God Speed.”