American Equity Investment Life Holding Co.'s founder and chairman, David Noble, died peacefully in his sleep on Sunday, the company announced today. He was 85.

Noble founded the American Equity group of companies in 1995 and served as chairman, chief executive officer, president and treasurer until 2009, when he became executive chairman of the board. He retired from full-time employment in July 2016.

"We are deeply saddened by the passing of our founder and leader," said John Matovina, president and CEO of American Equity. "Dave was a visionary leader whose passion for the annuity business was inspirational to the thousands of employees, independent insurance producers and business associates his life touched during his more than 60 years in the insurance industry. In addition, he was a great supporter of our community through the Noble Foundation."

Noble built the West Des Moines-based company from the ground up into one of the leading annuity issuers in the United States, with $45.2 billion in policyholder funds under management as of year-end 2016.

He took the West Des Moines-based issuer of indexed annuity products public in 2003, when he was 72 years old. After having sold an earlier insurance company he had built, the Statesman Group Inc., Noble had retired for all of three days before assembling his former management team, telling them he was ready to do it all over again.

"Dave built American Equity on the foundation of great people and great service," Matovina said. "He always said – and believed – that a company is not a building or a charter, but rather it is the people that make the company successful. We will continue to follow his business model of providing superior customer service and valuing and appreciating every employee, agent and policyholder of American Equity. We send our deepest condolences to his family and friends."

Please send memories of David Noble here.