2023 Death Care story of the Year: Batesville Casket sold




In any given year there is a lot that happens in any industry or profession.  And, there was a lot that happened in death care in 2023 such as the continuing Federal Trade Commission continuing to look into and holding hearings on the status of “The Funeral Rule”.  Or, on the more entertaining side, there was the release of the movie “The Burial” which thrust the, sometimes, murky world of death care mergers and acquisitions into full view of our potential and future consumers.


However, for reasons that go towards the world of acquisitions and the generational history of death care ownership businesses, as well as the fairly recent continuance of private equity ownership of death care, Funeral Director Daily recognizes the sale of Batesville Casket Company as the death care story of 2023.


As you can see from this story  from PR Newswire the sale of Batesville Casket Company to Long Range Capital was consummated in early 2023.  The company was shed from the ownership of public company Hillenbrand Industries for a reported $761 million and now acts as a solo private company under the ownership of private equity company Long Range Capital.  According to another article, Batesville employs about 3,000 people with about 600 of those in Indiana.


The Historical Perspective:  One of the reasons that this story was selected as 2023’s Death Care Story of the Year is how it represents the changing face of death care ownership.  That’s a face that is moving from generational ownership by families to an increasingly corporate ownership model . . . . most often seen in funeral home establishments, but, as seen in this case, can be in large corporate businesses as well.


The history of Batesville Casket Company is such that it was founded in 1884 as Batesville Coffin Company and purchased in 1906 by John Hillenbrand where it became the Batesville Casket Company.  For years Batesville Casket Company was the cornerstone of what became Hillenbrand Industries — a company that eventually became a publicly traded company, but still headquartered in Batesville, Indiana.


Over the years Batesville Casket Company was a solid performer for Hillenbrand Industries and contributed profits to the company year after year.  However, as Hillenbrand made acquisitions in the Advanced Process and Molding Technology business areas, Batesville Casket was more and more seen as a outlier unit of the company.


In the summer of 2022 Hillenbrand Industries announced that they would look for strategic alternatives for their Batesville Casket Company operating segment and in December 2022 announced that they had an agreement with Long Range Capital for the acquisition. . . that was finalized in February 2023.


The Ownership change trend “just happens”:  For whatever reason death care businesses, and especially funeral homes seem to carry on with generational ownership more than other businesses.  I was a 4th generation funeral home owner who found myself in a situation where my children wanted to move their lives into the business world that didn’t include owning a funeral home.


Decisions had to be made, and like many generational funeral home businesses, the business had grown to a size that gave national and regional operators interest in the operations.  As each business moves forward and longer with the generational ownership it becomes more and more likely that the next generation will not be interested in the death care business. . . . . and that alone will continue to drive the mergers and acquisitions movement that we see in death care.


With Batesville Casket Company the linear generational operation of the business from Batesville Coffin Company to Batesville Casket Company to being part of family-formed Hillenbrand Industries, which went public in 1971, spanned a period of about 139 years. . . . . .  like many family funeral homes, Batesville has now been weaned from family ownership and we continue to hope that the company will be as good to funeral service in the future as it has been, under the Hillenbrand ownership, in the past.


Here is the website for Batesville Casket

Here is the website for Long Range Capital


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