Real estate industry veteran Richard Francis Sommer died unexpectedly of heart failure in London on Sept. 6, according to family members. He was 50.

"His death came as a great shock to us all.

Real estate industry veteran Richard Francis Sommer died unexpectedly of heart failure in London on Sept. 6, according to family members. He was 50.

"His death came as a great shock to us all. How could his vibrant and energetic presence be taken from us without warning? How will we cope with the emptiness left in his absence?" the family said in a statement.

Sommer was born and raised in Chicago and graduated from Princeton University. A Rhodes Scholar, Sommer earned a master of philosophy degree in international relations at Oxford and later a law degree at Stanford University, according to the Rhodes Trust website.

Sommer served as president and managing director of international real estate operations of Homestore Inc., now known as Realtor.com parent Move Inc., starting in 2001. In 2002,  he joined IndyMac Bank Inc. as senior vice president of business development for its mortgage banking unit.

In August 2004 he became CEO of HomeGain.com. From 2006-07 he served as CEO of ZipRealty. Subsequently, he served as a director of LiveDeal Inc. and became the company’s CEO in 2009. He was appointed CEO of San Francisco-based Rothman Healthcare Corp. in September 2010.

In a statement at the time of his appointment, Rothman Healthcare Corp. said, "As a seven-time CEO of both public and private companies, Mr. Sommer has demonstrated the ability to create strong profitable growth, substantially increase shareholder value, and bring revolutionary technologies to the marketplace. While CEO of HomeGain.com, (he) grew revenues 250 percent and led the sale of the company for 29 times earnings, creating over $108 million in shareholder value."

Michael Rothman, Rothman Healthcare co-founder and acting CEO, told Inman News, "He was an exciting and effective CEO during his tenure and we are very saddened by his sudden passing."

Sommer is survived by his three sisters and 88-year-old mother, Rothman added.

The Sommer family has invited those who knew Sommer to express their thoughts at a blog set up at richardsommer.wordpress.com.

Friends remembered Sommer for his boisterous personality and his appreciation for wine and good food. 

  • "You encouraged me, shored my confidence up, encouraged my wine interest, imparted your gusto on living fully to me, led me to believe in myself more — you were my friend," said Michael Bastasch. "Friends, food and frolic, three words you lived by without apology should be a most fitting eulogy. I’ll raise a toast to you in tears."
  • "If Richard was in a room with you, you knew it," said high school friend Rob Greenblatt. "In high school, we all knew Richard would be president of the United States one day. In recognition of the obvious, we elected him president of the New Trier East class of 1979. I had never met anyone so driven and ambitious. So loud. So fun."
  • "I will miss his larger-than-life personality, his roaring laughter, that infectious smile of his, his big bear hugs, and his unwavering friendship and support," said friend Lance Evans.
  • "Wicked smart and jovial, Richard had a powerful presence. He walked into a room and took over with his wit, charisma and insight," said Brad Inman, Inman News publisher, and founder and CEO of Vook. Inman worked with Sommer at HomeGain, a company that Inman founded and later sold.
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