Stewart Enterprises to Cut 60 jobs

April 12, 2012
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Stewart Enterprises Inc. will lay-off 60 employees in the next two to four months as part of an organizational restructuring plan, the Metairie company announced Wednesday.

The cuts will come from several of the company’s offices, said Martin de Laureal, the firm’s senior vice president. He would not say how many positions will be eliminated in the New Orleans area.

Stewart Enterprises is the second-largest provider of funeral and cemetery products and services in the nation. The Jefferson Parish company operates 218 funeral homes and 141 cemeteries in 24 states and Puerto Rico and employs about 5,000 people.

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The job cuts are attributed, in part, to a reorganization of Stewart’s sales department and a realignment of its regional management, that will result in fewer “layers of sales management.” For instance, there will be just one regional vice president in charge of operations and sales in each region, instead of one for each of those divisions, the company said.

The restructuring will result in more than $10 million in savings by the end of fiscal year 2013, Stewart President and Chief Executive Officer Thomas Kitchen said in a statement. In the near-term, the restructuring will cost the company $2 million to $3 million, about $1 million of which will be spent on separation pay and termination benefits, Kitchen said.

“We believe these changes will enhance our customers’ experiences, increase employee satisfaction and productivity and lead to improved sales and margins,” Kitchen said.

Earlier this year, Stewart Enterprises was criticized as a “mismanaged company” by JC Clark Ltd., a Toronto hedge fund that owns shares of the firm. The Canadian company said in February that it was unhappy with Stewart’s revenue growth, earnings, management turnover, capital investment and share price performance and demanded that Stewart form an independent committee of directors to explore alternative ways to operate.

de Laureal said Stewart’s restructuring is unrelated to the shareholder’s plea.

“What we’re doing here has nothing to do with that specific investor,” de Laureal said. “We’ve been talking about things like (providing best-in-class sales practices) for years. It’s all focused on customer service.”

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