TRIBUTES have been paid to Birkenhead-born businessman and former chairman of Tranmere Rovers, Peter Johnson, who has died aged 84.

The son of a butcher, Johnson helped run family-owned Park Foods and turned into a hugely successful Christmas hamper business, making him one of the UK's richest people with an estimated fortune of £150m.

He was approached to invest in Tranmere Rovers with the club at the foot of the Football League and he oversaw the most successful period in their history culminating in promotion to the second tier.

Johnson would go on to become chairman of Everton in the mid-1990s before returning to Tranmere where he became president before selling his controlling interest to current owners Mark Palios and his wife Nicola. 

A statement from Tranmere Rovers said: "It is with enormous sadness that Tranmere Rovers has learned of the passing of former owner and chairman, and lifetime president of the club, Peter Johnson. 

"Peter, a Birkenhead boy turned hugely successful businessman, remained fiercely loyal to the place of his birth and came to the aid of Tranmere in its time of need, buying it out of administration in 1987. 

"Under his ownership, the club not only avoided relegation out of the Football League on the last day of the season under the guidance of then manager, Johnny King, but then went on to propel itself to the most successful period in its history, rising to Division Two (now the Championship), achieving the play offs for the newly formed Premiership in three consecutive seasons, and making it to the League Cup Final. 

"Under Peter’s ownership, the club made five trips to Wembley, signed some of its most iconic players, including John Aldridge, Liam O’Brien, Gary Stevens and Pat Nevin, and created memories that will last a lifetime for those of the SWA who were lucky enough to see it all unfold. 

"Despite living out his final years in Monaco and France amid failing health, Peter continued with a keen interest in Tranmere, watching matches on iFollow, attending at Prenton Park when his health permitted and sometimes calling the chairman to discuss the games.

The club would like to extend their heartfelt condolences to Mel, Susie, Kate and Charlotte, and all of Peter’s family at this difficult time." 

Current owner and former player, Mr 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.”