Originally created 01/09/01

Augusta funeral home might be up for sale

The world's largest funeral service corporation intends to sell more than 500 funeral homes and cemeteries, and an Augusta property might be one of them.

Houston-based Service Corporation International said last week it would sell the facilities to help pay down the $3.3 billion in debt that it racked up by aggressively acquiring independently owned funeral homes during the past several years.

One of those funeral homes, Elliott Sons Funeral Home, Augusta, is rumored to be for sale. Calls to the funeral home were forwarded to Service Corp. A spokesman for the company said it will not disclose which of its 431 funeral homes and 105 cemeteries it plans to sell.

"That would be announced whenever those sales take place," spokesman Greg Bolton said.

Service Corp. expects to receive between $200 million and $250 million from the sales during the next two years.

Elliott Sons Funeral Home's third-generation owner, Herbert Elliott, sold the business to Service Corp. in 1986 after running out of family members to run the company. The funeral home and crematory has three locations in metro Augusta.

Service Corp. said the properties included in the sale are spread throughout 42 states and three Canadian provinces. The company that began in 1962 with a single funeral home in Houston now controls 3,755 funeral homes, 575 cemeteries and 203 crematories in 20 countries.

The company controls about 11 percent of the country's funeral business, Mr. Bolton said.

The company's goal is to reduce debt to between $2 billion and $2.5 billion by the end of 2002 while improving cash flow by focusing on prearranged funerals and funeral packages.

Service Corp. announced last January it would lay off 1,141 employees and take a $273 million restructuring charge after its stock lost approximately 80 percent of its value in a year's time.


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