From high school dropout to New York Yankees owner to renowned construction mogul, Del E. Webb created a company that evolved into one of the largest developers in the state and the U.S., thus earning him the crown as the most influential person in Arizona’s commercial real estate history over the past 100 years.
Born in Fresno, Calif., Webb cut his academic career short in 1915, taking an interest in carpentry and baseball. For nearly 13 years, Webb worked as a carpenter strictly for companies with baseball teams in order to make his living and stay close to his sports passion. In 1927, at the age of 28, Webb moved to Phoenix after contracting typhoid fever. The next year, he began focusing solely on construction.
His first projects included rebuilding a Sears store, local grocery markets and public sector projects, especially schools. With these jobs, Webb was able to stay afloat during the Great Depression and keep his company moving forward.
After a combined project with The White Miller Construction Company, the Del E. Webb Construction Company was well on its way to being one of the top contractors in Arizona. He became so successful that in 1945 Webb and two other partners purchased the New York Yankees for about $3M. Webb was a co-owner until 1964.
During World War II, Webb was contracted to build air bases and military installations in Arizona and Southern California, but it wasn’t until 1960 that Webb’s construction would truly take the housing industry by storm.
Webb’s Sun City housing project addressed the need for senior communities and prospered well into the 1990s. With a shopping and recreation center, golf course and five house models, Sun City truly put Webb on the real estate map and even landed him on the cover of Time Magazine. Today, Webb’s Sun Cities continue to grow.
In 2001, the Del Webb Corp. was purchased by Pulte Homes, which has since merged with Centex Corp. to become the PulteGroup.
Webb died at age 75 in Rochester, Minn., following surgery for lung cancer, but his legacy lives on. There is the Del E. Webb School of Construction at Arizona State University, the Banner Del E. Webb Medical Center in Sun City, the Del E. Webb Center for the Performing Arts in Wickenburg, and the Del E. Webb Outpatient Center in Prescott Valley, just to name a few.