FORMER Newcastle chairman Freddy Shepherd has died, aged 76.
The businessman passed away at his home on Monday night, his family have confirmed in a statement.
The family statement said: “Freddy Shepherd, former chairman of Newcastle United and chairman of Shepherd Offshore Group and Triple S Sports & Entertainment Group, sadly passed away peacefully at his home last night.
“At this difficult time the family have asked that their privacy be respected and all media enquiries should be directed to Mark Whittle of Triple S Communications.”
Newcastle legend Alan Shearer led the tributes on Twitter, writing: “So sad to hear my great friend and former @NUFC chairman Freddy Shepherd has passed away. I owe him a huge debt for bringing me home. RIP”
A statement from Newcastle said: “We are saddened to hear of the passing of former Newcastle United chairman, Freddy Shepherd. Our thoughts are with his family and friends.”
During his time in control of the north-east club he went through eleven managers.
Shepherd assumed control at St James’ in 1997 after he had met previous owner Sir John Hall’s challenge to sign Shearer for a then world record £15million.
Hall had held an ambition to turn Newcastle into a major sporting club, and Shepherd continued his work as he helped finance huge investment in new players.
He then reduced the club’s interests in other sports, selling or reducing the controlling stakes in the Newcastle Falcons rugby team, Newcastle Eagles basketball team and the Newcastle Cobras ice hockey outfit.
Shepherd preferred to concentrate on trying to deliver success on the pitch for the football club, backing then boss Sir Bobby Robson in the transfer market.
But in August 2004 he sacked Robson just four games into the new season – a move which led to him being roundly criticised by the Newcastle supporters.
He continued to attempt to bring in top class players in an effort to deliver success, notably signing Michael Owen from Real Madrid in 2007.
But soon after he was shocked to discover the Hall family had sold their stake in the club to billionaire Mike Ashley and reluctantly agreed to sell his stake in Newcastle, ending an 11-year association.
Shepherd continued to be a big figure in the north east after leaving the club, and in March this year he was awarded the freedom of Newcastle in recognition of his career.