Instead, Lloyds Banking Group's stewardship of Cala paved the way for a perfectly-timed buy-out six months ago - triggering a new era of growth likely to reward handsomely the personal investment of £10m from its top team.
Government initiatives are stimulating the first-time buyer market and percolating upwards towards Cala's top-end homes, average price £333,000, prompting Mr Brown to say with muted delight: "I'm very positive about the way things are going at the moment."
But in January 2010 it was touch and go. "I was on holiday in Spain," recalls the 53-year-old father of three. "My wife and I were sitting on the front and I was told they were coming through on the phone at 2.30 - I knew it had gone to the credit committee that morning....they said 'we're going to support you'."
Lloyds took a hefty writedown in a £286m debt for equity swap, set a three-year exit window, and went on to renew a £180m facility in early 2012.
"For them to reinvest allowed us to grow and produce some return, it was a significant decision at the time given what was going on," the chief executive says. "There was a period for couple of weeks where I thought the bank wasn't going to support us. The team and I fought really hard, not against the bank but to demonstrate what we could deliver. As it happens we have delivered substantially more."
He explains: "In reality they put in place a debt package of £190m at the time, they have had all of that £190m back plus £50m of equity - compare that with the number they might have got had they liquidated at that time.
''It was the right commercial decision, in fact we are now a case study (for Lloyds) of how to do a restructuring properly."
Cala has unveiled plans to double its business to £500m of revenue by 2017, after the £210m buy-out in which management emerged with 7% of the £140m equity, and Lloyds agreed new borrowings of £100m.
The 93% stake is shared between private equity group Patron Capital Partners and its surprise partner the insurance giant Legal & General, which has promised to take stakes in the recovering UK economy.
Mr Brown says the auction earlier this year inevitably attracted trade buyers to the UK's biggest, and rapidly recovering, upmarket housebuilder.
This time the uncertainty lasted a "horrendous" four months. "There had been some rumours that we would be taken over by one of the majors. We fought very hard for that not to be the case," Mr Brown reveals.
"We were working with Patron to start with, it was only when the final bid came in that we knew about Legal & General....having won 'housebuilder of the year' in 2012, it was amazing how many people were pleased when we announced our deal."
It was Cala's third great escape. Scotland's first quoted company when formed in 1875 as the City of Aberdeen Land Association, Cala was given new life a century later by transforming entrepreneur Geoff Ball. It was his consortium which nipped in to take Cala private in 1999 when Miller Group, which looked sure to snap up its smaller neighbour, blundered in the framing of an £87m bid.
By this time Mr Brown, who had trained as a chartered quantity surveyor and joined Cala in 1986, was heading its Midlands business, and he became regional chairman of Cala Homes in England in August 2007.
Nobody had seen the looming crisis, the bank having backed a refinancing in 2007, Mr Brown recalls.
"Our market went off in March 08. We were (only) expecting a little bit of a bumpy ride, but I knew it was going to be tough after being in Cala in the south during the last recession. It was really about putting in place defences, keeping sales in come coming in, never breaking banking facilities - which we didn't do once - and knowing the business had to be shrunk for a while...though we didn't expect it to take as long as 2013."
Cala said in June that sales had risen 10% in the preceding 12 months, gross margins were up from 16.4% to 19%, private reservations were up 4%, and the government's Funding for Lending and Help to Buy schemes were helping to fuel the rosiest outlook in six years.
Now positioned as the UK's 16th biggest housebuilder with a strong national brand, Cala is on the front foot.
"Long-term group strategy has changed significantly since the buy-out in March," Mr Brown says. "The long-term strategy is to use the extra firepower to grow our south of England business, and also elements of our Scottish business, particularly around Edinburgh and Aberdeen."
Cala has remained active in the land market throughout the slump, when other builders turned off the tap, contracting for a record £470million (gross developed value) of land last year on 35 sites.
"We contracted twice what we developed the previous year and since then we have contracted substantially more," Mr Brown says. "The Patron -L&G partnership is opening doors for us all over the UK which weren't open to us before. We probably expected something, but nowhere near as much as we are getting."
He says Cala has long championed the Scottish example of a national policy framework with a five-year land supply for housing.
"In England the vast majority of local authorities didn't want any housebuilding at all, but the Westminster government now recognises there is a severe housing crisis. A huge inflation of selling prices is actually not helpful to anybody, they always cause a bubble which is detrimental to housebuilders in the long term."
Mr Brown, whose family home is still in Stratford-on-Avon but has a house at North Berwick, argues: "Support for the housebuilding industry is probably the cheapest and easiest support they can give to any industrial sector....and there is plenty of history to show that most recessions are solved through the housing sector."