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Former Newcastle chairman Freddy Shepherd dies aged 76

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London (AFP)

Former Newcastle chairman Freddy Shepherd, a pivotal figure in the club's 1990s success, has died aged 76, his family announced on Tuesday.

Shepherd was Newcastle chairman for 10 years from 1997 and eventually sold his share of the club to current owner Mike Ashley.

"Freddy Shepherd sadly passed away peacefully at his home last night," his family said in a statement.

"At this difficult time the family have asked that their privacy be respected."

Tyneside-born Shepherd became a Newcastle director in 1992 and served as vice-chairman to John Hall as the club finished Premier League runners-up in both 1996 and 1997.

Shepherd played a key role in the appointment of Kevin Keegan as manager in the early 1990s, a move that helped transform the then struggling second tier side into a top-flight force.

Under Keegan's management, Newcastle went toe to toe with Manchester United in the Premier League title race before losing out to Alex Ferguson's team.

Shepherd was also influential in signing England striker Alan Shearer from Blackburn for a then world-record £15 million in 1996, as well as the succesful appointment of Bobby Robson as manager.

"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," Shearer tweeted.

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