The secretive but politically active Bob Perry, who built Perry Homes in Houston into one of the largest privately owned home-building companies in the United States, died on Saturday night. He was 80. The cause of death was not disclosed, and the company had not issued a statement at presstime.

Perry’s death was confirmed by Neal Jones, a friend and Texas state representative. Perry is survived by his wife, Doylene, and four children.

A former high school teacher, Perry launched Perry Homes in 1968. The builder is active in the Houston and San Antonio markets, where it closed 1,608 homes in 2012 and generated $485 million in revenue, according to information provided by the company to Builder.

Perry was reportedly instrumental in the formation of the now-defunct Texas Residential Construction Commission, which provided homeowners and builders a way to resolve construction defect problems without litigation. Ironically, Perry Homes was a defendant in a bizarre 2010 lawsuit whose jury verdict awarded $58 million in actual and punitive damages to a couple who had complained about defects caused by the settling of the house they had bought.

Little else is known publicly about Perry’s business or personal life. He rarely granted interviews, preferring instead to remain behind the scenes, where he could wield his wealth to provide financial support to philanthropies and conservative politicians and causes. The Center for Public Integrity estimates that Perry donated $23.5 million to various Super PACs in the last election cycle alone, $18 million of it to presidential candidate Mitt Romney and organizations backing him.

Perry’s most notorious contribution may have been the $4.4 million he gave in 2004 to support the Swift Boat Veterans campaign that sought to discredit the Vietnam War record of then Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry.

John Caulfield is senior editor for Builder magazine.

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