Copstat gains investors, begins expansion

Historically a guard company, Copstat begins to add installations
Wednesday, September 1, 2004

NEW YORK - Guard company Copstat Security has come under new ownership, with a trio of private equity firms investing in the business and plans to expand into installing electronic security systems.

Meridian Venture Partners and DFW Capital Partners led the investment, which took place in June, with Theo Capital Partners also participating. Debt financing came from Madison Capital Partners.

The financing amount was not disclosed, but the transaction included buying out Copstat Security’s founder Ron Bellistri, who started the company in 1985.

“We were basically going to bring in some investors and Ron decided to sell his equity,” said Jim Wood, chief executive officer and president and now the single largest shareholder of the Bronx-based company.

For DFW Capital and Meridian Venture, the deal represents their first investment in the security field. Both bring financial and strategic planning capabilities to Copstat Security.

“We think there’s room for geographic expansion that can significantly grow the company,” said Tom Penn, partner at Meridian Venture in Radnor, Pa. Penn said growth could come from acquisitions or internally.

Copstat Security’s reputation in the market is what led DFW Capital of Teaneck, N.J., to invest in the business, according to Keith Pennell, general partner at DFW Capital. “It has an extremely good reputation among its clients,” said Pennell. “And one of the best client retention figures in the industry.”

Now with financing in hand, Copstat Security plans to

expand its existing guard, consulting and investigative business and its newly started installation business.

The company has already expanded operations, opening a location in Los Angeles in May. A second office could follow in Connecticut, said Wood.

“We want to continue to gain market share, not only in the tri-state area, but also in California,” he said.

The company currently employs 1,400 people, mostly security guards, and serves 170 customers. Its offices are located in Stanford, Conn., Leonia, N.J., Los Angeles, Manhattan, Brooklyn and in the Long Island area.

Its installation business is small in comparison, according to Wood, who plans to hire a person to bring more of that expertise to Copstat Security.

“We’re looking to get more involved with technology and video monitoring,” he said. “It goes hand-in-hand with guard service.”