It pays to be part of the family…

Funeral giant Stewart Enterprises (STEIE) filed both its 10-K and its preliminary proxy late Friday and one thing jumped out, particularly for a company whose performance compared with its self-defined peer group, has been lackluster. As the preliminary proxy notes, that performance didn’t stop President and CEO Kenneth Budde from getting a 35% raise in 2005, or from walking away with nearly 50% of all options granted last year.

But the thing that really stuck out was how well the relatives of top executives — even former top executives — did last year. Kevin Rowe, the son of former Chairman William Rowe saw his salary as sales director nearly double. Two sons of former senior vice president Michael Crane also got healthy raises. And Brenna Bennett, who’s married to another senior vice president named Everett Kendrick, saw her salary increase a whopping 43% in 2005. Indeed, the only relative who didn’t get a hefty raise was Budde’s brother, John. Hmmm…wonder why he didn’t get the royal treatment?

P.S. I did an interview with Marketwatch yesterday. There’s a link here.