THE HOUSING INDUSTRY LOST a longtime and beloved leader last month when Richard Brown, founder and CEO of Libertyville, Ill.–based Cambridge Homes passed away.
Brown often set the bar by which other area builders measured themselves, starting in the early 1960s when he formed Cambridge Homes. Among a long list of successes, Brown pioneered early master planned communities, active adult developments, and mid-rise condominium complexes in the greater Chicago area.
Brown improved with age. The 1995 acquisition of Lexington Homes helped boost Cambridge to become Illinois' largest private builder for several years, and when Brown sold Cambridge to D.R. Horton in 1999, he remained CEO and his son, Doug, stayed on as president.
Though he was a keen competitor, Brown wanted to better the industry, both locally and nationwide. “He had a real focus on what home building could do for people and how better communities could be built,” reflects David Hill, chairman and CEO of Kimball Hill Homes and a longtime friend of Brown's. “When the NAHB or the HBA needed something, he was there with his time, his talent, his resources, and his leadership.”
As a past president of both the HBAof Greater Chicago and the HBA of Illinois and past chairman of the NAHB High Volume Builders Committee, Brown commanded respect across the industry—and beyond. “He was our senior statesman. He was the most respected builder in the metro Chicago area,” says Peter Schwartz, CEO of the HBA of Greater Chicago. “He was a visionary.”