Nation’s Two Largest Funeral Companies To Merge, Form Bereavement Voltron

Back in 2008, Service Corporation International, the nation’s largest funeral-service company, made a bid to acquire the second-largest company, Stewart Enterprises Inc. The smaller company rebuffed its suitor, but reconsidered after an offer this year. The two companies will now form one large mega-death-services-corporation just as baby boomers are about to consider planning–and more importantly, pre-paying for–their funerals.

You may be more familiar with SCI under the cuddlier brand of Dignity Memorial, but they probably own at least one funeral home near you. Reuters estimates that the deal is worth about $1.13 billion. That gets SCI a few hundred funeral homes and more than a hundred cemeteries all over the country. The companies estimate that merging will save them a combined $60 million per year.

How do companies in the funeral business save money by combining? Centralization helps: the company might own multiple funeral homes in one region, but only embalm or cremate bodies at one of them, saving on staff and facility costs. Both companies have acquired businesses in all facets of the industry, from casket and urn companies to cemeteries.

Of course, like any large, nationwide business, SCI has generated some horror stories rendered more horrible because the consumers in question are grieving loved ones. Sending bodies to one central embalming facility does lead to the occasional mix-up where the wrong person shows up at your grandmother’s funeral, in her coffin and dressed in her clothes. Or hundreds of corpses left to leak and mold in unrefrigerated hallways.

If the FTC approves the deal, the new company will own a little less than 20% of the funeral industry in the United States.

Top two U.S. funeral companies merge as baby boomers boost demand [Reuters]

MORE ON SCI:
Six Feet Blunder [Phoenix New Times]
This Man Wants to Bury You

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