Universal buys Guardsmark to form largest US-owned guard firm

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

SANTA ANA, Calif.—With the July 28 announcement of its acquisition of guard firm Guardsmark, Universal Protection Service is now the largest U.S.-owned guard firm.

“We are excited about the position it puts us in to gain business with American companies,” Steve Jones, CEO of Universal Services of America, told Security Systems News. Universal Protection Service is a division of Universal Services of America.

Jones believes being the largest American-owned guard firm will be a “real differentiator” for Universal in the U.S. market.

Based in Memphis, Tenn., Guardsmark has more than 125 offices in 400 cities in the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico and the U.K. In addition to guard services, Guardsmark offers risk assessments, executive protection, investigations and background checks. UPS operates in 100 U.S. cities. The combined company will employ 60,000.

Former Guardsmark CEO Ira Lipman will join the Universal board of directors as vice chairman.

Jones noted that Universal competitors “Securitas and G4S are foreign-owned and Allied Barton recently announced that it’s selling to a French company.”

Universal Services also recently announced that it has a new majority shareholder. Partners Group, its former majority owner, agreed to sell its controlling interest in Universal to Warburg Pincus, a global private equity firm. Universal and Partners Group are still large shareholders in the business, Jones said.

The ownership change was tied to the Guardsmark acquisition, Jones said. “We wanted to acquire Guardsmark, and decided to bring in Warburg as an additional investor. Through this process, Warburg went from a possible minority investor to becoming [the majority owner],” Jones said. Partners is based in Switzerland; Warburg is based in the United States.

Universal has hired Boston Consulting Group to help manage the integration process. “They will work over the next six to 12 months to integrate the two companies especially the branch offices in locations that overlap,” he said.

In addition to its guard business, Universal Protection Services, Universal Services of America also has an electronic security business. The electronic security business is a “small but growing part of the business,” Jones said.

“Over the past several years the electronic security business has gone from a $10 million business to more than a $60 million business,” he said. 

Since Guardsmark has no electronic security offerings, Jones said there will be opportunities for cross-selling video monitoring and electronic security services to Guardsmark customers.