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Big public companies buy two home builders in area

Westfield Homes and American Heritage Homes are acquired by California companies.

By JANET ZINK
© St. Petersburg Times
published October 18, 2002


The home building industry is not immune to the corporate consolidation trend. In recent weeks, publicly traded national firms absorbed two relatively small companies with operations in Hillsborough County.

In August, Westfield Homes Inc. completed a deal with California-based Standard Pacific Corp.

And earlier this month American Heritage Homes announced it had been acquired by KB Home in Los Angeles.

American Heritage built more than 800 single-family homes in Central Florida in 2001 and controls more than 4,000 lots in the area. The company's seven Tampa area communities include FishHawk Ranch in Brandon and West Meadows in New Tampa.

KB Home entered the Florida market in July 2001 with the acquisition of Jacksonville-based Trademark Home Builders Inc., and in 2002 launched a startup division in Tampa. KB has divisions in California, Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, California and Texas.

"KB is one of the largest home builders in the nation," says Mark Ezzard, formerly chief executive of American Heritage and now the Central Florida division vice president for KB.

"In the sales process, our company was very well sought after, and KB/American Heritage made the best fit. They really specialize in the first-time, first-move-up market, which American Heritage was in."

The sale made sense for American Heritage, Ezzard says, because the company was owned by an insurance holding company in Cincinnati that couldn't invest the time or capital necessary to expand its home building division. Now, Ezzard says, American Heritage has a parent company that makes home building a priority.

Plans call for design centers in Tampa and Orlando, where home buyers can select fixtures, flooring, cabinets and other options for their homes.

Westfield Homes, now a Standard Pacific company, has been in business since 1980 and operates in Tampa Bay, Southwest Florida and the Carolinas. The company has built homes in New Tampa, Brandon and northwestern Hillsborough County.

Standard Pacific, one of the nation's largest home builders, has constructed more than 50,000 homes in California, Texas, Arizona and Colorado during its 36-year history. With its acquisitions of Westbrooke Homes, Colony Homes and Westfield Homes, the company is also now operating throughout Florida and in the Carolinas.

Standard Pacific builds residences in a wide range of prices and sizes. In Dallas, Standard Pacific's offerings include a 2,026-square-foot home with four bedrooms and two bathrooms and a price tag of $176,000, and a 4,247-square-foot executive home with four bedrooms and three bathrooms that's selling for nearly $500,000.

KB's Ezzard says the expansion to Florida makes sense. Florida leads the nation in issuance of single-family home permits.

"Public companies have to show growth, and they want to expand into markets where they don't have immediate knowledge," says David Pelletz, vice president for Westfield Homes Tampa division. "Buying a local company gives them the expertise of the people in the marketplace."

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