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Kevork S. Hovnanian

Home builder, philanthropist

October 01, 2009|Times Staff and Wire Reports

Kevork S. Hovnanian, 86, who fled Armenia for Iraq before coming to the United States and building a small family-run company into a major home builder, died Sept. 24 in Manhattan, the company said. The cause of death was not disclosed.

In 1959, Kevork and his three brothers -- Hirair, Jirair and Vahak -- each contributed $1,000 and borrowed $20,000 to start a company to build homes in Toms River, N.J., Hovnanian Enterprises Inc. said in a news release marking its 50th anniversary.

Kevork was the company's largest shareholder, with about 7.6 million shares, or a 12% stake, according to regulatory filings. His son, Ara, 52, has been president and chief executive since 1997, when Kevork stepped aside to serve as company chairman.

Born in 1923, Hovnanian was the eldest of four sons of a road builder in Iraq. In 1959, after a military revolution and nationalization of the family business, the Armenian Christian Hovnanians fled to the United States.

Hovnanian Enterprises builds homes in states including California, Arizona, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland and New Jersey.

Known in the Armenian community for his philanthropy, Hovnanian helped establish K. Hovnanian Children's Hospital at the Jersey Shore University Medical Center. His foundation also donated to the New York Presbyterian Hospital in New York City and to other Armenian causes.

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news.obits@latimes.com

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