John Berylson, Millwall’s owner and chairman whose death was announced by the club on Tuesday, was killed in a fatal car accident while driving alone in the US, it has been reported.
The Falmouth police department in Massachusetts issued a statement on Tuesday concerning a single vehicle crash on Cape Cod, subsequently said to have involved Berylson, with the Range Rover leaving the road, rolling over into a ravine and coming to rest against a tree.
The 70-year-old driver had to be cut out of the vehicle and was pronounced dead at the scene, and the crash continues to be investigated.
Berylson, who was American, attended Harvard Business School and Brown University. He first became involved with Millwall in 2006 and helped them to become established in the Championship, finishing last season just outside the playoffs.
The Millwall chief executive, Steve Kavanagh, paid tribute to the “extraordinary and exemplary” contribution of Berylson. On the club’s website, Kavanagh said it was “unquestionably the hardest thing I’ve ever had to write in my life” as he reflected on the “best club owner I have ever worked with”.
Kavanagh wrote: “What he did for Millwall over so many years was both extraordinary and exemplary. He trusted his staff to get on with the task at hand, but was always unwavering in his support in so many ways.
“John’s endless passion for Millwall was infectious. He was so incredibly dedicated to the club and year after year showed remarkable energy and drive to keep us progressing on and off the pitch.
“There have been ups and downs, sure, but in my view many more of the former, and as we know John enjoyed nothing more than to light up a big cigar in celebration of a famous win, promotion, or other deserving achievement.
“His regular visits to The Den became increasingly memorable as the support for him from the fan base grew further with every passing season. He loved the time he would spend walking the perimeter of the stadium to speak to supporters, and his lap of honour before the final game of the season – in hindsight an even more profound moment now – was amazing to witness.
“I feel so desperately sad for John’s family and our thoughts and prayers are with them at what is just such a devastatingly cruel time.”
Berylson is survived by his wife, Amy, and children Jennifer, James and Elizabeth.
Kavanagh confirmed Millwall’s squad would remain in Spain to continue pre-season preparations and would visit The Den to pay their respects to the late chairman on their return.
The Lions manager, Gary Rowett, said: “He would always ring me after games, he’d ring me a couple of times in the week just to ask how things were going. The skill that John had was incredible, he’d always try to make you feel better if you’d lost a game or something had happened.
“He’d always try to support and make it feel like there was a way out of it, there was a route out of it and there was a strategy to move forward. That showed his compassion, that showed his love for the club.
“It’s so difficult to comprehend, for me certainly, Millwall without John Berylson, because he was the figurehead, he was the inspiration and just a tremendous, tremendous owner and chairman.”