In a smooth and expected shift in power, Parker S. Kennedy took over the reins of First American Financial Corp. from his father Thursday to become only the fifth president in the company’s 104-year history.
Donald P. Kennedy, who has run the company since 1963, was named the board’s chairman, a newly created position. The company’s 15 directors, who were reelected Wednesday by shareholders at the annual meeting, had never had a chairman.
The younger Kennedy, 45, also retains his position as president of the primary subsidiary, First American Title Insurance Co. His job as executive vice president of the holding company was abolished. The elder Kennedy, 74, also retains his position as chairman of the title company, the nation’s second largest title insurer.
First American was established in a storefront office in Santa Ana by Parker Kennedy’s great-grandfather, Charles E. Parker. Headquarters for the company, which has diversified into real estate-related services and trust and banking activities, has remained within a few blocks of that original store.
Except for a 13-year stint by H.A. Gardner beginning in 1930, the company has been led by the Parker family. Donald Kennedy controls 4.5% of the company’s stock, which is widely traded on the NASDAQ market system. Parker Kennedy controls 1.1%.
Wall Street has not been kind to the company since last week, when it started anticipating that first-quarter earnings would be lower than expected. The company’s stock price, which was $35.50 a share 10 days ago, closed Thursday at $26.50 a share, down $1.625 a share from Wednesday’s close.