John Winniford, CEO of Gehan Homes, Talks About Sumitomo Sale

Gehan Homes made some big changes in late April, when the Dallas-based builder sold its remaining shares to Sumitomo Forestry America, a subsidiary of Japan’s fourth–largest domestic builder, Sumitomo Forestry Co.

There was also a change atop Gehan’s executive office, as John Winniford replaced Timothy Gehan as president and CEO. Winniford has more than 20 years’ experience in the home building industry and previously served as the division president for Gehan’s Dallas Division for the last 10 years.

“I was certainly humbled by the opportunity and honored to have been entrusted to lead and serve such an incredible team,” Winniford says of the promotion.

Gehan, which has offices in Dallas, Houston, Austin, San Antonio, and Scottsdale, Ariz., ranked 29th on the 2016 BUILDER 100 list with 1,499 closings and $488 million in gross revenue in 2015.

Sumitomo purchased a 51% stake in Gehan in May 2014 and officially closed on the remaining shares on April 29. Winniford says the sale gives Gehan added financial strength that will allow it to be more aggressive in land acquisitions and be better positioned for future growth. “It maintains continuity and consistency for our employees and our building partners,” he says, adding that he became aware of the sale in early March.

For Sumitomo, the move is another in its stated quest to become one of the country’s biggest builders and deliver 5,000 homes a year. Most recently, it acquired Mid-Atlantic staple Dan Ryan Builders in January.

In a statement, Atsushi Iwasaki, president of Sumitomo Forestry America, stated “Sumitomo, as it sought to expand its home building operations in the U.S., was drawn to Gehan Homes due to the solid foundation that had been laid to support its growth, its senior management team, and the company’s culture and commitment to its employees. This company has already accomplished some amazing things and we look forward to carrying on the Gehan Homes’ legacy for years to come.”

Gehan will remain privately owned and Winniford says it will maintain its “business as usual approach.” 

As leader of the company, Winniford says he will look to roll out some new product initiatives that “will allow us to penetrate some new segments of the markets we don’t currently serve. I’m also working to streamline our acquisition and development function to improve efficiency and deal flow.”

Winniford says there aren’t any fundamental differences in terms of leadership style between he and Timothy Gehan, he’ll just look to keep the ship steady. “We have a proven track record and we’ll look to continue to build on the strengths of the company,” he says. “Moving forward, I’ll continue to focus on maintaining a disciplined approach to our core business and establish clearly defined goals for our people.”

In May, Gehan purchased the last 58 completed residential lots in the master-planned community “Arbors at Willow Bay," developed by Hillwood Communities and located in the highly sought after submarket of East Frisco.

The new CEO did not wish to tip his hand on any future plans, but did say he likes where Gehan Homes is heading. “It’s a great opportunity for our company,” he says. “Sumitomo has proven to be committed to their long-term growth here in the U.S. housing market and so we’re bullish on our future.”