More Insight Into the New Company Formed by Three Keystone Execs

April 30, 2010
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imageIt seems that the funeral home/cemetery acquisition

market has a new player. What was speculated for

months is moving closer to fruition as three former top executives

at Keystone North America have formed a new company

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and are moving forward with the acquisition of the properties

the Federal Trade Commission last month ordered divested by

Service Corporation International in order to complete the

company?s acquisition of Keystone.

The company, Foundation Partners Group, will be headed by

Steve Shaffer, who will serve as president and chief executive officer. Shaffer was previously chief financial officer and co-founded

Keystone in 1996. Jim Price, also a co-founder of

Keystone and was its chief operating officer, is Foundation

Partner?s executive vice president and chief operating officer; and

Chris Thomley,who has served as Keystone?s chief accounting officer since 2005, becomes chief financial officer.

When reached for comment, Price said that the company has

signed an agreement with SCI to acquire the properties mandated

for divestiture. ?Any further details would not be appropriate

at this point,? he added. Price anticipates going through

a review process with the FTC over the next several weeks, and

if all goes favorably and according to schedule, the deal should

become officer in approximately 60 days.

In addition to the divested properties (To view a list of the companies that were divested by SCI Click Here),

Foundation Partners Group will also acquire Aldor Solutions

as part of the transaction. Aldor Solutions, which provides funeral

home software solutions, was acquired by Keystone in

May 2009.

While the principals don?t want to comment any further on

the deal just yet, industry observers see this as a positive move

within the industry putting another buyer on the block.

?As far as I can tell, the company will be looking at a certain

size business to fit their model,? said David Nixon, Nixon

Consulting, Chatham, Ill. ?It may create a possible alternative

buyer for countless funeral home owners who want someone

other than SCI or Stewart Enterprises to talk with in the sale of

their business.?

Nixon added that Foundation Partners Group essentially

could build to become the company that Price and other

Keystone management wanted Keystone to be ? but were cut

short in the process by shareholder interests. ?Time will tell if

Foundation Partners Group can be as successful as they were

at Keystone,? Nixon said. ?It seems they might keep this one

private or control the ownership a bit different than before.

?I really think that Foundation Partners Group can build a

credible acquisition firm but they have to deal with funding and

other start-up issues,? Nixon added. ?They are not strange to the market but lending these days is not what it was.?According to Nixon, the funeral service sustainable growth rate was

downgraded late last year to just 2 percent according to one outside rating firm (it was 3 percent for a number of years).

Nixon is optimistic about Foundation Partners Group?s chances for success. ?If anyone can do it, these guys can,?Nixon

said. ?As long as they stay within their comfort zone, they can become a solid player in the acquisition arena.?

Keystone enjoyed a strong reputation within funeral service for its service model. Bob Pierce, president of Pierce

CFO, Tallahassee, Fla., agrees that Foundation Partners will be a fine addition to the funeral community. ?Keystone

worked very hard to deliver a serious quality of service,? Pierce said. ?Jim Price and Steve Shaffer were an important part

of that commitment. I am sure that Jim and Steve will continue to deliver the Keystone level of service.?

Bob Horn, who co-founded Keystone with Price and Shaffer in 1996, is thrilled for his former Keystone brethren

with their new opportunity. ?I am a huge fan of Jim Price and Steve Shaffer, we go way back,? said Horn, who retired as

chairman of Keystone in 2008. ?Jim, in my humble opinion, is the leading practitioner out there today as far as having a

good feel for what our industry is all about and how to be successful in it,?Horn said. ?We are in a relationship industry

and everything kind of trickles down than that.Nobody has a better sense or feel for the importance of perpetuating those

relationships with former owners, our local site management, rank and file employees, as well as giving back to the communities

we serve. It is his strong point and forte and that will serve the new company very, very well.

?There is no doubt in my mind that will be the culture that they will build at the new company because that is Jim?s

track record for the past 35 years,?Horn added. ?Tie that up with the strong financial people and I think they will be very

successful in building up a new consolidation company.?

When SCI acquired Keystone, Alan Creedy, president of Trust 100, was saddened because it took one of the best operators out of the options. ?Jim Price is a key driver and one of the best innovator in this size company so I am delighted

he will still be acquiring,? Creedy said. ?This is likely to be a first rate firm and I expect them to do well.?

For Ernie Heffner, president of Heffner Funeral Homes & Crematory,York, Pa., the formation of Foundation Partners

means that there will not be one less exit strategy option as the result of SCI acquiring Keystone. ?Options are good for

everyone,? he said. ?SCI and Keystone are both solid industry name brands but in the end, for any company, it?s all about

the people, their relationships with others and the respect they have earned. I think this ?new company? will really just be

a different name under which familiar, well respected people will continue doing what they have been doing for years.?

To view a list of the companies that were divested by SCI Click Here

Source:Memorial Business Journal

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