Executive Movement in the Housing Industry

Activity at Standard Pacific Homes, Kimball Hill Homes, WCI Communities, Park Square Homes, Centex, Jim Walter Homes and Wall Homes is covered this month.

February 01, 2007



 "Today in Texas, I wouldn't want to be selling houses below $150,000 in average price, because the big public builders are going to kill you with their specs."

– Steve Wall, Wall Homes

Michael Cortney, Standard Pacific Homes' president, will retire on March 15 and also give up his position as a director of the Irvine, Calif.-based public builder, ranked No. 12 in last year's Giant 400, with 11,694 closings for $4.18 billion in 2005. Chairman and CEO Stephen Scarborough will take on the additional role of president.

GMAC Residential Funding of Minneapolis has paid $110 million for a 21 percent stake in Rolling Meadows, Ill.- based private Giant Kimball Hill Homes, according to a Jan. 1 report in Crain's Chicago Business. Neither Kimball Hill nor GMAC representatives spoke about the deal to Crain's, which quoted SEC filings. The report says the Hill family's holdings in the company are reduced from 81 percent to 69 percent. Kimball Hill, with operations in eight states, closed 4,079 homes in fiscal 2006 (ending Sept. 30) for $1.16 billion in revenue, but the firm was hard hit by last year's sudden crash of housing markets in California and Florida.

Carl C. Icahn, the billionaire investor, now has a 14.57 percent stake in WCI Communities. The Bonita Springs, Fla.-based public builder ranked No. 17 in last year's Giant 400. WCI closed 2,909 units for $2.22 billion in 2005. Icahn disclosed his WCI holdings in regulatory filings, which were then reported by The New York Times. He now controls nearly 6.1 million WCI shares, which he described in the filings as "undervalued." Wall Street's reaction to the news: an immediate 7 percent bump in WCI share value, driving it to an 8-month high of $22.47 a share in mid-January.

Jody Proudfit is now director of marketing for the Orlando region of Orlando, Fla.-based Park Square Homes, which last year sold 1,215 homes for $407 million in revenue. Park Square is a major player in Central Florida's resort and retirement home market. Proudfit will report to Jim Bagley, Orlando division president. Bill Minnielli is now onboard as a land division project manager. Minnielli reports to Chuck Cavaretta, Park Square's vice president of land acquisition.

Centex Corp., the Dallas -based No. 4 Giant, (37,876 closings in 2005, for $11.33 billion) has named Cathy R. Smith chief financial officer. Smith, 43, will report to Centex chairman and CEO Tim Eller. Smith joins Centex from Kennametal, a global supplier of tools, engineered components and advanced materials.

Ron McCaslin has been named president of Jim Walter Homes. The Tampa, Fla.-based modular and scattered-lot Giant ranked No. 145 in last year's Giant 400, with $185.9 million in revenue from 2,361 single-family detached closings in 2005. He previously served as president of Wisconsin-based modular home and commercial builder Stratford Homes. Prior to that, McCaslin was president and chief operating officer of the manufacturing division of American Homestar, and also held executive positions with Fleetwood Homes.

 Update on Wall Homes

Steve Wall recently gave us an update on his new Arlington, Texas-based production building juggernaut, Wall Homes, as the firm approaches its second birthday in April. Wall founded his firm in 2005, with $50 million from private New York investment banker Warburg Pincus to get started (see August 2006 GIANTS, p. 42). His strategy: to invade the move-up market in four big Texas metro areas — Dallas/Fort Worth, Houston, San Antonio and Austin — all at once, with architectural style as his major selling point.

At launch, he had 10 employees and one location; he now has 123 employees and builds in 20 locations statewide. After one year, Wall had 45 closings. By year-end 2006, he had 258 closings, averaging $175,000 in price, and 3,613 lots under control.

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