Time Line to Company Ownership

Under a fun-focused management team that now owns the company, Professional Builder's 2004 Builder of the Year, John Laing Homes, is morphing into a new breed of home builder.

By Bill Lurz, Senior Editor | November 30, 2003
1970: Bill Probert graduates from the University of California, Santa Cruz, with a bachelor's degree in sociology and psychology and a minor in education; begins career as a substitute teacher in South Lake Tahoe, Calif.
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1971: Larry Webb graduates from the State University of New York at Cortland; begins career as a social studies teacher and soccer coach at Monument Mountain High School in Great Barrington, Mass.
1974: Webb's soccer team wins Massachusetts state championship, only one in any sport for Monument Mountain. Probert opens Tahoe Clothing Co., an active sportswear store, in South Lake Tahoe.
1977: Wayne Stelmar receives bachelor's degree in accounting from California State University, Northridge; begins career with accounting firm Grant Thornton in Van Nuys, Calif., works on accounts of major financial institutions.
1980: Webb receives master's degree in city and regional planning from Harvard University; begins doing market research for Gladstone Associates in Washington.
1981: Webb moves to Denver to do market research for HOH Associates.
1984: Webb goes to Mission Viejo Co. to head product develop-ment and market-ing at Highlands Ranch, Colo.
1985: JLH begins U.S. operations as subsidiary of publicly held John Laing PLC, based in London. Stelmar moves to Kenneth Leventhal & Co., learns to structure complex financial deals. Probert lands his first job selling houses, for Reno, Nev.-based Mitchell Co.
1987: Webb takes a job as Orange County, Calif., division president of Kaufman and Broad (now KB Home) and moves to Southern California.
1988: Stelmar becomes controller and CFO for several home building divisions of Watt Industries. JLH hits $45 million in revenue, primarily from entry-level detached homes in Orange County. Probert becomes V.P. of sales and marketing for Presley Homes in Southern California.
1990: Webb becomes president of A-M Homes, a small move-up builder in Orange County that would be sold two years later to Pacific Greystone (Webb would continue as Orange County division president).
1993: Watt Housing is sold to Beazer Homes. Watt Residential, with operations in Hawaii and a seniors community in California, opens new divisions in Northern California, Utah and Colorado. Probert becomes V.P. of sales and marketing for Davidson Homes.
1994: Watt Residential forms joint venture with Goldman Sachs Whitehall Fund called Watt Residential Partners, with goal to launch a home building initial public offering or market assets to a public builder.
1995: Webb becomes president of John Laing Homes.
1996: Probert takes a position in a two-year workout deal that would be-come Hearth-side Homes.
1997: John Laing Homes becomes largest builder in Orange County, begins negotiations to merge with Watt Residential Partners. Webb and Stelmar begin professional collaboration.
1998: Watt and Laing merge in April to create WL Homes LLC, with Webb as CEO, Stelmar as CFO. The company has three divisions from Laing and five from Watt. Probert joins WL as V.P./sales and marketing in June.
1999: WL, marketing as Laing, opens a division in Sacramento, Calif.
2000: WL board (with equal representation of Laing and Whitehall) decides to sell company, retains Credit Suisse/First Boston to market WL to U.S. public home builders.
2001: In February, WL management team puts in ownership bid that requires complex debt and equity financing, through multiple financial partners, over three years. Bid is accepted in June, closing the door on four public builders' bids.
2002: New ownership deal requires closing operations and selling assets in Washington, D.C., Utah and Las Vegas. Those sales close early in the year.
2003: Last ownership ties to Whitehall and British Laing retired. Voting ownership now with Webb, Stelmar, Probert, Southern California region president Steve Kabel and Colorado region president Rich Staky. JLH identity retained because of positive brand recognition.


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