John F. Shea, chairman of U.S. tunneling contractor J.F. Shea Co., who also diversified the family owned business into homebuilding and real estate development and management, died Oct. 18 in Pasadena, Calif., at age 96, according to an announcement.

Shea and cousins Peter Shea Jr. and Edmund H. Shea Jr., in 1958 dissolved the firm founded as a plumbing company in 1881 by their grandfather—which became part of the joint venture that built the Hoover Dam, and foundations for the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge—and reincorporated it, the announcement said.

The firm did not respond to an ENR request for comment on Shea, who was named CEO of the reinvented firm, remaining in that role until 2005, when he was succeeded by Peter Shea. John Shea was named chairman, in the role until his death. Edmund died in 2010.

Under John Shea, the Walnut, Calif.-based company was involved in constructing subway projects in San Francisco, Washington D.C., Los Angeles and New York City, as well as water transmission tunnels across the nation.

The 2010 announcement of Edmund's death noted "active" work on the No. 7 line from Times Square to the Javits Center and the Second Avenue subway, both in Manhattan. Last year, the firm completed the last segment of Metropolitan Water District's Inland Feeder Project, a tunnel through the San Bernardino mountains.  

The firm frequently partnered with Kiewit Corp. and Kenny Construction, now a unit of Granite Construction. The Moles, a national heavy construction group, cited John Shea in 1991.

J.F. Shea Co. diversified into homebuilding and real estate development in the 1960s. According to its website, Shea Properties had revenue of more than $250 million in 1969.  Its units operate in 11 states, and own and operate nearly 10,000 apartment units and 6 million square ft of office, industrial and retail space. In 2021, Shea Homes was ranked as the 28th largest U.S. homebuilder by Builder magazine.

The firm also moved into venture capital investing under Edmund Shea. "Companies like Apple Computers, Adobe, Altera Computers, Genentech and AES Corp. are among over 250 companies receiving investments from Shea Ventures," says its website.

Current company revenue could not be confirmed.

The Los Angeles Business Journal, which ranked John Shea No. 38 on its "wealthiest Angelenos" list, said he had a net worth of $2.3 billion. Shea and wife Dorothy also funded school renovations and provided student scholarships, it said.