Toll Brothers Co-Founder Robert I. Toll Dies

Toll Brothers Co-Founder Robert I. Toll Dies
Robert I. Toll

NEW YORK—Robert I. Toll, the co-founder of national homebuilder Toll Brothers, died on Oct. 7 at his home in New York, the company reported.

Toll, the former Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, passed away surrounded by his family following a long battle with Parkinson’s disease at the age of 81. He was an iconic industry leader who abandoned a career in law to help launch one of the nation’s largest home building companies.

“We are heartbroken by the passing of our founder, mentor, and dear friend,” said Douglas C. Yearley, Jr., Chairman and CEO of Toll Brothers, which is headquartered in Fort Washington, PA. “All of us who were lucky enough to spend time with Bob have been forever impacted by his huge heart, unique sense of humor, zest for life, and profound intelligence. Bob was a brilliant strategist and an incredible teacher and advisor. His lessons have been indelibly etched over the past half-century in the minds of the entire Toll Brothers team and many of the industry’s current and future leaders.”

Toll was born in 1940 and raised in Elkins Park, a suburb of Philadelphia. After graduating from Cornell University and The University of Pennsylvania Law School, he practiced law for one year before founding Toll Brothers with his younger brother Bruce in 1967. Inspired by their father Albert, a home builder, the brothers built their first two colonial-style homes in suburban Philadelphia. “We built two homes. Instead of selling them, we used them as samples for the lots we owned down the street,” recalled Bob. They became the company’s first decorated luxury model homes, an innovative selling concept that is now a signature Toll Brothers strategy. With contracts in hand to build 20 more homes in the community, Toll Brothers was on its way. The company went public on the New York Stock Exchange in 1986, ultimately becoming a Fortune 500 company with $9 billion in annual home building revenues, and a presence that now spans more than 60 markets in 24 states.

Toll served as Chairman and CEO of Toll Brothers from its founding until 2010 and remained on the Board of Directors thereafter until recently stepping back to Chairman Emeritus.

During his career, Toll received numerous industry honors. He was named CEO of the Year by Builder magazine, Top CEO in the home building industry three times by Institutional Investor magazine, and was twice named to Barron’s List of The World’s 30 Most Respected CEOs. In addition, the company he co-founded has been named the #1 World’s Most Admired Home Builder in Fortune magazine’s survey of the World’s Most Admired Companies seven times, as well as Builder of the Year by Builder magazine and the first two-time recipient of Builder of the Year from Professional Builder magazine. In 2017, he and Bruce Toll were inducted into the Builder magazine Hall of Fame and together celebrated the 50th anniversary of the company’s founding by ringing the bell at the New York Stock Exchange.

“One of the happiest days of my life was when Bob quit the practice of law and we joined together to start Toll Brothers, building what has become such a great company,” said Bruce. “While deeply saddened by his passing, I am forever grateful for our lives together as brothers and business partners.”

Toll is survived by his beloved wife, Jane, their five children, and 12 grandchildren. “

Toll and Jane also made philanthropy and social justice an integral part of their lives. In addition to their avid support of nonprofit organizations including the American Red Cross and the American Cancer Society, they were hands-on leaders and supporters of numerous causes.

They were major benefactors of Seeds of Peace, an organization that brings together youth and educators from areas of conflict in the world to its camp in Maine. In addition to providing the land for the Seeds of Peace camp on the site of the former Camp Powhatan, which he attended as a young boy, Toll’s involvement in the program over the years ranged from serving on the Board of Directors to teaching boating skills to the campers.

In 1990, Toll and Jane worked with the Say Yes to Education Foundation to sponsor 58 third graders from William F. Harrity Elementary, an inner-city school in West Philadelphia.
Toll was also dedicated to giving back to the educational institutions he attended by serving on the Boards of the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Pennsylvania Law School, and the Cornell Real Estate Council. Along with supporting numerous other educational programs over the years, The Robert and Jane Toll Foundation recently pledged over $50 million to Penn Law to expand the Toll Public Interest Scholars and Fellows Program that supports students who are pursuing careers in public service and social justice.

The family plans to hold a private service to honor Toll’s life. In addition, Toll Brothers and his family will host a celebration of Bob’s life on a future date at the company’s headquarters in Fort Washington, PA.

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