Hovnanian Enterprises announced Friday that its founder and chairman of the board, Kevork S. Hovnanian, died Thursday, September 24 at New York Presbyterian Hospital.

Kvork Hovnanian started the company in 1959 and led it as president until 1988 and CEO until 1997, when his son, Ara, succeeded him as president and CEO. The company's primary brand, K. Hovnanian Homes, continues to carry his name.

"Mr. Hovnanian was the heart and soul of our company and all of our associates mourn this tragic loss," said J. Larry Sorsby, executive vp and CFO of the company. "Our deepest condolences and prayers are with Mr.Hovnanian's wife, Sirwart, and his entire family. Mr. Hovnanian was a visionary who brought tremendous leadership, energy and passion to his job.He made an indelible mark on this company and on the community, where he felt a responsibility and a deep commitment to share his good fortunes. He was a great man and will be dearly missed by all who knew him."

Kevork Hovnanian was an active philanthropist. Among his more recent efforts included:the K. Hovnanian Children's Hospital at Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune, N.J.; the first Children's Hospital in the area; donations to the New York Presbyterian Hospital in New York City, which has named the Cardiology Practice area in honor of the K.Hovnanian Family; and the K. Hovnanian Pavilion and the Alton A. Hovnanian Emergency Care Center at Riverview Medical Center in Red Bank, N.J., the town in which Hovnanian Enterprises is based.

Hovnanian, of Rumson, N.J., was 86.