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Saturday, Jun 15, 2024

John F. Shea Dies at 96

John Shea, chairman of J.F. Shea Co. Inc. and who — with a net worth of $2.3 billion — ranked No. 38 this year on the Business Journal’s Wealthiest Angelenos list, died after a brief illness on Oct. 16 in Pasadena. He was 96 years old.

Shea

Shea’s Walnut-based company owns and operates nearly 10,000 apartment units and 6 million square feet of office, industrial and retail space in California.
Shea was born on Sept. 29, 1926 in Oakland. He grew up in Hancock Park and graduated from Los Angeles High School.

He then attended USC’s Viterbi School of Engineering where he played tennis, winning an NCAA championship with his brother and doubles partner, Gilbert Shea.

After college, Shea joined his family’s civil construction business — which Shea’s grandfather founded in Portland, Ore. in 1881 — and worked on dam and tunnel projects throughout California and the Pacific Northwest. In 1958, the company, which was best known for its work on the Golden Gate Bridge and the Hoover Dam, was dissolved and reincorporated by Shea with his cousins, Edmund and Peter Shea. They built the reorganized J.F. Shea Co. into one of the largest privately held companies in the United States.

Shea spent more than six decades as chief executive and later as chairman of the company. During that time it became one of the largest civil contractors in the U.S. In addition to working on the subway systems in Los Angeles; San Francisco; Washington, D.C., and New York, J.F. Shea Construction built a number of tunnels, highways and water treatment projects.

The company made some changes in 1968 when Shea steered the company into real estate. He founded what is now Shea Homes and Shea Properties.

Shea Homes is now the largest privately held homebuilder in the United States. The company has built more than 100,000 houses.

Shea Properties now owns and operates approximately 10,000 apartment units and 6 million square feet of office, industrial and retail space in California, Colorado and Washington.

Shea is also a well-known philanthropist. In the late 1980s, Shea began supporting inner-city Catholic schools. Over the past 35 years, Shea and his wife Dorothy provided scholarships for disadvantaged students and funded more than 1,000 school renovations.

Besides appearing on the Business Journal’s Wealthiest Angeleno’s roster, he was named three times to the LA500, the list of the most influential leaders in the area, including this year’s book published in June.

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MICHAEL AUSHENKER Author