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Thursday, March 1, 2001

Big funeral
operator to sell
isle holdings

Valley of the Temples is
among the 10 businesses that
bankrupt Loewen Group is
selling for for $35.3 million

By Russ Lynch

Loewen Group Inc., one of Hawaii's biggest operators of funeral homes and cemeteries, has agreed to sell its Hawaii operations for $35.3 million, according to documents filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in connection with the Loewen reorganization.

The sale agreement covers 10 businesses, including Valley of the Temples Mortuaries, the mortuary part of Hawaiian Memorial Park (not the park itself), several Maui operations including Nakamura Mortuary and Maui Memorial Park, plus some funeral plans and related service businesses.

Officials representing British Columbia-based Loewen declined to comment except to say that an agreement was filed in court in Delaware but the transaction has not yet been concluded.

The court documents list the buyer as Right Star International Inc. but a Vancouver, B.C. public relations firm representing Loewen said it had no information beyond the name. A California executive of Loewen, Shawn Phillips, said he also has no information about Right Star.

The company does have a telephone number in Los Angeles but there was no answer today. Doug Hernan, Maryland-based publisher of the Funeral Service newsletter, said he found a corporate registration for Right Star in Nevada.

Loewen became a major factor in Hawaii with acquisitions in 1995 and later bought more isle properties as part of a rapid expansion in the United States and Canada. In June 1999, however, the company filed for protection from creditors under a Chapter 11 bankruptcy petition, saying it needed to restructure some $2.3 billion in long-term debt.

Loewen, owner of more than 1,100 funeral homes and more than 400 cemeteries, has been seeking court approval to sell many of them as part of its restructuring.

Another big operator of funeral businesses in Hawaii, Texas-based Service Corp. International, is also burdened with debt and is selling properties but has not said whether the island properties are on its for-sale list.

Service Corp.'s businesses in Hawaii include Borthwick Mortuary and the Hawaiian Memorial Park Cemetery.

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