John Shea, chairman of JF Shea Co. Inc. and ranked 38th on Business Journal’s list of richest Angelenos this year with a net worth of $2.3 billion this year, died October 16 in Pasadena after a short illness. He was 96 years old.
Shea’s Walnut-based company owns and operates nearly 10,000 residential units and 6 million square feet of office, industrial and retail space in California.
Shea was born on September 29, 1926 in Oakland. He grew up in Hancock Park and graduated from Los Angeles High School.
He then attended USC’s Viterbi School of Engineering, where he played tennis and won an NCAA championship with his brother and doubles partner, Gilbert Shea.
After college, Shea joined his family’s construction company – which Shea’s grandfather founded in Portland, Oregon in 1881 – and worked on dam and tunnel projects throughout California and the Pacific Northwest. In 1958, the company, best known for its work on the Golden Gate Bridge and Hoover Dam, was dissolved and re-established by Shea with his cousins Edmund and Peter Shea. They built the reorganized JF Shea Co. into one of the largest privately held companies in the United States.
Shea spent more than six decades as the company’s chief executive and later as chairman. During this time it became one of the largest construction companies in the United States. In addition to working on the Los Angeles subway systems; San Francisco; Washington, DC, and New York, JF Shea Construction built a number of tunnels, highways, and water treatment projects.
The company made some changes in 1968 when Shea steered the company into real estate. He founded what is now Shea Homes and Shea Properties.
Shea Homes is the largest private home builder in the United States today. The company has built more than 100,000 homes.
Shea Properties now owns and operates approximately 10,000 residential units and 6 million square feet of office, industrial and retail space in California, Colorado and Washington.
Shea is also a well-known philanthropist. In the late 1980s, Shea began supporting downtown Catholic schools. Over the past 35 years, Shea and his wife, Dorothy, have provided scholarships to underprivileged students and funded more than 1,000 school renovations.
In addition to appearing on Business Journal’s list of the wealthiest Angeleno, he has been included three times in the LA500, the list of the most influential executives in the region, including this year’s book, which was published in June.