Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Praxis to Buy Cemeteries for $125 Million

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Praxis to Buy Cemeteries for $125 Million

Article excerpt

In a purchase valued at $125 million, the Praxis Corp. of Oklahoma City has negotiated letters of intent to buy 87 cemeteries in 19 states, the company announced Monday.

Six of the properties are in Oklahoma. Two are in the Midwest City-Oklahoma City area and one is Memorial Park Cemetery in Muskogee, said Mark Carter, Praxis president. He said confidentiality concerns prohibited him from disclosing more specific information on the Oklahoma cemeteries involved.

The transactions should be finalized by Aug. 31, he said.

The venture places Praxis among the other major corporate players in the funeral service business, including the Loewen Group Inc. of Canada, Service Corporation International of Houston and Stewart Enterprises in New Orleans.

"The corporation and its acquisitions are being privately funded initially by a group of institutional investors," Carter said. "With this funding we will be able to start exercising our letters of intent in early August and should complete all previously negotiated purchases by the end of August. Our intent is to have a public stock offering later this year or early next year."

Besides Oklahoma, the cemeteries involved are located in Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia.

Although cemeteries will be Praxis' main thrust, it will also own and operate 15 funeral homes, Carter said. All but two of them are combination facilities with the cemetery properties. The company plans to construct funeral homes on two of the Oklahoma properties. Muskogee is not one of those, he said.

"We may add other funeral homes, but only where they can be an integral part of cemetery properties we own," he said.

Carter, a Sulphur, Okla. native, was a partner in an oil production company and has lived off the interest of his earnings for several years, he said. "I have family that owns funeral homes and cemeteries, so I've grown up around this," he said.

"I have a good business sense and I know how to structure deals. The people I have around me know how to manage that money and manage that resource," Carter said.

"Our type of industry is fairly recession proof. It's an unavoidable fact of life. When you have a history of a family using the cemetery, you can project what your income is going to be."

A major factor in selecting Oklahoma City as national headquarters for Praxis is the central location, Carter said.

"Although most of the properties initially being purchased are in the eastern half of the United States, this location is ideal for additional future West Coast acquisitions. Also, the stability and family atmosphere of Oklahoma City make it attractive. …

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