Industry vets launch Secure Strategy Group

Thursday, February 5, 2009

NEW YORK--Roughly 100 people came here Jan. 29 to the law offices of Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz to hear a panel discussion regarding "Funding, Investment Strategies & Developments in Security Technology 2009" and celebrate the launch of Secure Strategy Group, a new advisory firm headed by three industry veterans.

The principals are Robert Rutkowski, who founded integrator ESI in the mid-1970s, before entering the financial world in the 1990s; Joseph Costa, who founded both access control manufacturer Linx Technologies (which sold to Mosler) and integrator ISR Solutions (which sold to Stanley); and Scott Greiper, a long-time industry investment banker who most recently ran Legend Merchant Group's Convergent Security Group. Together, said Rutkowski, it's "a combined group that really has not existed in the industry before."

Costa and Rutkowski had already joined forces as Rampart Partners, a consulting firm, and adding Greiper's financial acumen "just seemed like a natural," especially since he had worked previously with Rutkowski at an investment bank. "When Joe and I started Rampart three years ago," Rutkowski said, "we felt there was vacuum out there of [financial experts] who understood the security industry from within and the financial aspects that affect it ... Not many people have the embedded network that we have. You get to know a lot of people over the years. Many grow into new positions, so, when you speak the language of security to them you don't even have to finish sentences. It's a unique situation putting the three of us together."

Secure Strategy expects to consult on M&A activity among integrators and installers, work with manufacturers on brand development and market penetration, and consult for equity investors looking to enter the security space.

Rutkowski expects M&A activity to increase in the short term and equity investors to be eyeing security closely.

"Certain companies are going to be more realistic as to the valuation of their companies," he predicted. "Buyers who were closed out because of the valuations may be coming back in and taking a closer look. And sellers can see that maybe the valuations that were around a year ago aren't around anymore and maybe it's more realistic to accept the new valuations."