Wackenhut slated for Danish buyout

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Monday, April 1, 2002

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla.-The largest guard company under U.S. ownership is expected to be bought by Danish security company Group 4 Falck, pending shareholder and government clearance.

The $570 million deal would provide Group 4 Falck with its first foray into the uniformed security market, including fire protection, prevention and response services. The company does have a presence here, but provides access control and other security related equipment.

"I think it's a major deal in the sense that it just takes the third largest U.S. guard company right off the table," said Jack Mallon, a security industry analyst. "It's just further confirmation in the shift in the security industry leveraged from the United States to Europe and it highlights the globalization of the industry."

Lars Noerby Johansen, Group 4 Falck's president and chief executive officer, said Wackenhut provides his company with a platform in the $14 billion U.S. security guard market. Wackenhut employs 68,000 and had revenues of $2.8 billion in 2001.

The acquisition is expected to go through by the beginning of July. It would then mark an end of family control of the company, founded by George Wackenhut. A former FBI special agent, he started the company in 1954 as an investigations firm. It later expanded into uniform security officers.

It is now run by his son, Richard Wackenhut, who is the company's chief executive officer.

Besides being in the guard business, the company also runs a corrections company, Wackenhut Corrections Corp. Group 4 Falck will acquire a 57 percent state in that separately traded company, as well.

Its fire business serves clients such as the Kennedy Space Center, the Cape Canaveral Air Station and Saturn Corp. At Saturn, services include inspection of sprinkler systems, fire suppression and working with the state's fire marshal's office.

Not much is expected to change for Wackenhut as a result of the buyout, since Group 4 Falck lacks a presence in the guard market in the United States. "We've told our U.S. employees that it will be virtually unchanged, business as usual," said Patrick Cannan, director of corporate relations for Wackenhut.

Little, if any, resistance is expected from regulators. "The reason we don't see any pitfalls is we've already made some preliminary contacts with the government agencies," he said.