Additional details were not available at press time, but the filing marks the end of yet another top home builder. Founded in 1848 in Great Britain, John Laing Homes entered the United States in 1984, merging with Watt Homes in 1998 to become WL Homes. (It continued to build under the John Laing name.)
Noted for its customer service, Laing closed more than 1,100 homes as recently as 2007, but the housing downturn had already begun to decimate the Irvine, Calif.-based builder. That performance represented a closings drop of 51%. Revenues plunged that year as well, plummeting 40% to $982 million.
That could not have come as good news to new owner Emaar Properties, which paid more than $1 billion for corporate parent WL Homes in 2006, just as the housing bubble was starting to burst. Last December, Emaar told the builder it would no longer fund the company on an unsecured basis, and signs of financial stress soon began emerging at the builder. (Former CEO Larry Webb left the company in May 2008.)
Laing and its associated businesses filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Feb. 19, 2009, asserting its ability to restructure. “Your Honor, we are hopeful, despite what I think some folks put in their papers, that we can be a homebuilder that successfully emerges from Chapter 11,” attorney Laura Davis Jones, one of Laing’s bankruptcy lawyers, told the court on Feb. 20.
Alison Rice is senior editor, online, at BUILDER magazine.
Learn more about markets featured in this article: Los Angeles, CA.