Millwall’s U.S. owner Berylson dies in car crash

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John Berylson, an American businessman known for his enthusiastic ownership of the English soccer team Millwall, has died. He was 70.

His death, the result of a car crash in Massachusetts on Tuesday, was announced by the second-tier London team, which said Berylson presided over some of the greatest moments in Millwall’s history since first becoming involved with the club in 2006.

Team captain Shaun Hutchinson described Berylson as “an example on the perfect way to run a football club.”

“He really did love the club. He had so much time for every single person whether it be fans or the players, shook everyone’s hand, came across and individually spoke to every single player before every game,” Hutchinson said in a video posted to Twitter by the team.

Police and rescue workers received a report of a car crash in Falmouth, about 80 miles (130 kilometers) south of Boston, just before 8 a.m. Tuesday.

Police said the 2019 Range Rover was traveling south when it lost control on a curve and careened off the road, rolling over in a ravine and coming to rest against a tree. Berylson, the only occupant in the car, was trapped and had to be freed using mechanical means, police said.

Berylson was pronounced dead at the scene. Police said the cause of the crash remains under investigation.

“John was, without any doubt whatsoever, the best club owner I have ever worked with, and I would argue strongly that he was the best chairman of any club in this country,” Millwall CEO Steve Kavanagh said. “I feel so desperately sad for John’s family and our thoughts and prayers are with them.”

Millwall has spent nearly all of its 138-year existence outside of England’s top division.

Its only spell in the top flight was over a period of two seasons from 1988-1990, which was before the establishment of the Premier League as one of the most lucrative and popular sports competitions in the world.

Millwall also reached the English FA Cup final in 2004, losing 3-0 against Manchester United.

Arguably its most famous former player is Teddy Sheringham, who went on to play for United and England. England’s all-time leading goal-scorer Harry Kane also had a temporary loan spell there as young player.

Berylson became involved with Millwall in 2006, and by the following year he led a consortium to invest in the club, which was then in the third division of English soccer.

He reportedly provided funds of around £100 million ($127m) and the club was twice promoted to the second-tier EFL Championship during his time.

Berylson was CEO of the private equity firm Chestnut Hill Ventures LLC.

He was also a philanthropist. He and his wife supported the Richard and Susan Smith Family Foundation which invests in organizations providing health, education, economic security and community needs in greater Boston. The foundation declined to comment Thursday.

Berylson never put pressure on players and was quick to join in a celebration, according to Hutchinson, who recalled Berylson’s reaction after one playoff win.

“He was in the dressing room with his cigar in his mouth jumping around, celebrating, spraying Champagne with us,” he said. “He was a madman at times and that’s one memory I’ll never forget.”

As the world emerged from the pandemic, Berylson wrote a letter in February 2022 expressing his faith in both the team and its fans.

“It feels like we’re on a bit of a journey as a club – a transitional one – and we hope you’ll join us in your numbers as your support is absolutely crucial (more so than at any other club in my opinion) to success on the pitch,” he said in a statement posted to Millwall’s website.

“Having that extra couple of thousand inside the stadium makes the world of difference on and off the pitch,” he added.

Berylson also fought on Millwall’s behalf in a dispute with the local council over land surrounding the club’s stadium that might have forced it to move.

“John revelled in the club’s underdog status and mentality,” the team said in a statement, praising his “remarkable generosity, warmth, and kindness.”

“John’s sudden and tragic passing will unquestionably impact all those who were fortunate to have known him,” the club added. “He was a truly great man.”

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