Murdoch acquires Fortress, looks for more guard firms

Thursday, June 28, 2007

NEW YORK, N.Y.--Guard company Murdoch Security Group on June 25 announced the acquisition of Florida guard company Fortress Protective Services, the third East Coast guard company acquired by Murdoch since it was founded in 2004.
Full terms of the deal were not released. However, Murdoch president Bill Vassell emphasized that the owners of Fortress Protective Services retained some ownership in the company and will continue to run the company under the Fortress brand.
"We allow the entrepreneurs to hold back stock in the transaction, so they retain some ownership," Vassell said. This is the business model used by Vassell when he acquired two other guard companies - commercial guard company Randolph Security of New Jersey and residential guard company New World of Boston.
Vassell said he plans to "do that across the country," and that he has "four or five other companies in the pipeline that represent acquisition revenue in excess of $50 million."
Vassell's strategy is to "create a national company of owners that will all participate in a public offering," he said. He noted that this is something he's done before, having founded guard company Command Security in 1980 and taken it public in 1990, at which time it "had more than $100 million in revenue." Vassell sold his shares in that company in 2004.
Fortress Security, the recent acquisition, has 150 employees, is based in Coral Gables, Fla., and specializes in high-end residential business in South Florida. "Murdoch will handle the back office billing and payroll and we can focus on growing the company," said Joel Leffler, Fortress president.
Vassell said his business model is unique in the guarding industry where acquisitions are typically folded in and employees and owners, if they are retained, at all are told, "'you work for us know and you better work hard.'" That business model usually results in the "loss of 30 to 40 percent of business," he said, but by allowing company owners to maintain their identity and some ownership, "we've lost virtually no business."
Vassell said that he's looking at companies on the West Coast and in D.C., with an eye toward national clients who will want to use Murdoch guard companies in several cities across the country.