Donald Horton, founder of nation’s largest homebuilder, dead at 74


Donald R. Horton, chairman of the eponymous homebuilder that shared his name, died suddenly at age 74; no further details were disclosed. According to a LinkedIn post, D.R. Horton employees were notified on Thursday afternoon, with the company putting out a press release on Friday morning.

Horton was the founder of the company in 1991 and occupied the chairman’s role since then, as well as acting as president and CEO from July 1991 until November 1998.

Donald Horton founder of D.R. Horton.jpg

Horton, who stepped back from an executive role at his company D.R. Horton in October, died suddenly on Thursday.

He was involved in real estate and homebuilding since 1972, and was the founder, sole or principal stockholder, director and president of each of D.R. Horton’s predecessor companies, which date from 1978 to 1990.

D.R. Horton was the largest homebuilder in the nation in 2022 based on gross revenue, at $32.67 billion, edging out Lennar at $31.78 billion, according to Statista.

David Auld, executive vice chairman, has been elevated to executive chairman after Horton’s death.

“It is with great sadness that I announce the passing of my friend and our company’s iconic founder and chairman, Don (“DR”) Horton,” Auld said in the announcement. “Throughout the company’s 46-year existence, he worked tirelessly to build a national homebuilding operation with a strong company culture, and the impact of his personal involvement with our team of operators across the United States has contributed immeasurable value to our company and people.”

On Oct. 1, 2023, Horton stepped aside from an executive role at the homebuilder but remained as chairman. Auld moved to executive vice chairman from president and CEO, while Paul Romanowski, the then-executive vice president and co-chief operating officer moved into the jobs Auld previously occupied; no reason was provided for the changes at the time.

“We are all indebted to DR for his vision, tenacity and never-ending drive to continue to grow and improve our company,” Auld said. “While he is impossible to replace, we will strive to carry on his legacy of enabling the dream of homeownership for individuals and families across the United States in every stage of their lives.”

D.R. Horton owns an in-house lender, DHI Mortgage. In the first quarter, the company said this business provided financing for 80% of homes it sold, according to the 10-Q filing.

The homebuilder closed on the sale of 22,548 homes, with DHI originating the mortgage on 18,066. That compared with 19,664 and 14,865 for the first quarter of 2023.

The financial services segment, which includes a title company, had pretax income of $78 million for the first quarter, down from $85.6 million one year prior.

In its fourth quarter results, D.R. Horton noted its home sales business was being boosted through the use of temporary mortgage rate buydowns.

A public memorial for Horton will be held at a later date. He is survived by his wife Marty, their sons Ryan (and his wife Stacy) and Reagan (and his wife Michelle) and four grandchildren: Douglas, Madeline, Derek and Shelby.

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