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Better strategic alternatives for MMI hedgefunders?

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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Remember MMI Investments? I haven’t written about this NYC-based hedge fund in a while, but it appears that its principals have found some new, more attractive strategic alternatives to this NYC-based hedge fund.

Rueters reported this past weekend that MMI Investment principals Jerome Lande and Clay Lifflander were divesting stock and moving on.  I called Jerome Lande today to confirm and find out where he and Lifflander are headed and what they think about investing in the security industry--but he has not returned my call.

Lande and Lifflander, who had this profile written about them by Forbes a few years back, teamed up with Thomas “surrender the booty” Hudson of Pirate Capital to get Brink’s to split into two companies. (Well maybe it wasn’t an official team-up, but all of these hedgefunders were working for the same thing—“enhancing shareholder value” by getting Brink’s to separate the cash handling business from the home security business.)

In this case, Lande and Lifflander were successful. Both Pirate and MMI were Brink’s stockholders—and eventually board members who successfully agitated for the “review of strategic alternatives” back in 2008, which led, eventually to Brink’s splitting into the cash-handling business and Brink’s Home Security. The rest is history: BHS then renamed itself Broadview Security  and seven months later was purchased by ADT

Pirate’s ship sunk pretty quickly after the Brink’s deal, though there was word last year that Hudson may be getting back into the hedge fund business.

According to this report and others, MMI had some other investments in the security industry: notably Checkpoint Systems and Kratos Defense and Security.   Those investments didn’t work out so well.

From Rueters: “The activist fund had a mixed track record in its investments last year -- which typically involved taking a minority stake in companies and urging them to consider a sale.
Last summer, MMI amassed a near 10 percent stake in Kratos Defense & Security Solutions (KTOS.O), spurring a strategic review by the company that did not result in any deal.
MMI also failed to convince the board of Checkpoint Systems Inc (CKP.N) to explore strategic alternatives.”

I haven’t had a chance to scour SEC documents, but Bloomberg in August 2011 did report this about Kratos doing a casual exploration of a sale.

 “Kratos Defense & Security Solutions, Inc. is seeking potential buyers with the help of a boutique investment bank, two industry sources told deal Reporter. It is not clear whether Kratos has officially hired a financial advisor. Kratos Chief Executive Officer Eric DeMarco said: "Our policy is not to comment or discuss strategy or strategic alternatives." MMI Investments, L.P., holding 8.6% stake, said that Kratos' competitive advantages and growth prospects are greatly undervalued by its share price. "This undervaluation is unlikely to improve on a sustainable basis while [Kratos] remains an independent public company. Therefore, the reporting persons may engage in discussions with members of management and the board of directors of the issuer regarding strategic alternatives to maximize value," said MMI.”

And here’s part of an August 2011 Bloomberg report on MMI’s attempt to get Checkpoint to review its strategic alternatives.
“MMI Investments, L.P., a shareholders of Checkpoint Systems, Inc. (CKP) has asked the Board of Directors of CKP to conduct a comprehensive review and decide strategic alternatives to maximize value for all shareholders, including a sale of CKP as it is significantly undervalued given its strong products, technology, market positions and customer relationships. MMI Investments has also asked CKP to hire a banker for the purpose and explore strategic alternatives.”

New head of the class at CSAA

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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Whether it’s informing members about best practices, the latest technology or training that can help their bottom lines, the Central Station Alarm Association has made it a mission to constantly raise the bar. That bar got a boost this month with the appointment of Stephanie S. Morgan, the CSAA’s first full-time director of education and training.

In her newly created position, Morgan will be responsible for expanding the CSAA’s technical and professional training, and for building on its foundation of courses, workshops and webinars. She joins the organization after 10 years in post-secondary education as an instructor and administrator.

“She brings a depth of understanding of the theoretical and practical applications of education and training not only to CSAA, but to the industry as well,” Steve Doyle, CSAA executive vice president and CEO, said in a prepared statement. “No industry succeeds in the long term without goals to continually educate and upgrade its work force. Stephanie will bring a fresh perspective to our programs and long-term educational goals.”

Morgan recently completed her doctorate in rhetoric and composition, with a concentration in technological literacy, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Five Diamond club: Congratulations also go out to the Crime Alert Monitoring Center of San Jose, Calif., which recently received Five Diamond certification from the CSAA. Crime Alert is one of fewer than 150 centrals nationwide to have earned the distinction.  

Happy 30th, FSSA!

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Monday, January 23, 2012

It’s always interesting to find that important organizations we kind of take for granted today haven’t always been around. Such is the case of the Fire Suppression Systems Association, a nonprofit trade group founded 30 years ago. Its annual four-day forum is coming up in about a month—sounds like it will be a valuable educational event. Here’s more from a Jan. 23 FSSA news release:
 

Baltimore, MD. – The Fire Suppression Systems Association (FSSA) today announced it will host its 2012 Annual Forum February 25 – 28, 2012 in Rancho Mirage, CA. The 2012 Annual Forum marks FSSA’s 30th Anniversary as a fire suppression industry leader.

Founded in 1982, FSSA has spent the last 30 years becoming leading experts in the field of high level fire protection. The not-for-profit organization is made up of manufacturers, suppliers, and designer-installers working together to share ideas and strategies for the benefit of the fire suppression systems industry and employing existing and new technologies to safeguard people, high-value assets and the environment.

The 2012 Annual Forum will bring together designers, installers, manufacturers and suppliers of fire protection services for technical and educational sessions including discussions on topics such as fire protection challenges in data centers, maximizing productivity on the road and liability issues. The Forum will also feature keynote speaker Alan Beaulieu, as well as forums providing valuable industry updates and news.

Alan Beaulieu is one of the country’s most informed economists, consulting with companies throughout the U.S. and internationally on how to predict, plan and increase profits based on business cycle trends. Beaulieu is president of the Institute for Trend Research, as well as a Senior Economic Advisor to the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors and the Chief Economist for Heating Air-conditioning & Refrigeration Distributors International.

“We are thrilled to be celebrating thirty years in the industry and especially happy it comes at a time when we can celebrate with colleagues at our Annual Forum,” said Larry Grodsky, FSSA President. “FSSA has spent the last thirty years building on strategies and creating new technologies for fire protection. What better time to honor those accomplishments than at a conference where we can come together and share ideas, best practices and new trends in the industry.”

The 2012 Annual Forum will also feature a teaser of FSSA’s newly redesigned website which will be launched later this spring. For more information on the 2012 Annual Forum or to register, visit: www.fssa.net.

 

Pinnacle Security award winning

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Friday, January 20, 2012

Pinnacle Security was among the winners of the Electronic Security Integrators (ESI) Forum 2012 Best Practice Awards, announced earlier this month at the co-located ESI Forum and ESA Leadership Summit in Irving, Texas.

Pinnacle Security won in the Production Management (Design/Installation) category for its Pinnacle's Dashboard and MySales websites.

Here’s more from a news release from the Orem, Utah-based residential-and-commercial security company:
 

Pinnacle Security's Dashboard and MySales websites allow for instant access to real-time data as it pertains to sales and installations. The websites were given the ESI Best Practice Award because they are a good example of the use of technology for tracking and motivating staff to increase overall job performance.

Whether on a personal computer, a tablet or a smartphone, employees have instant access to real-time data via the websites, on not only themselves and their team, but for competing teams as well, thus fostering a spirit of healthy competition. Pinnacle Security has increased the overall quality of installations, and the progress per technician, by tracking individual status for the current year, as well as past years worked.

"We are pleased to be recognized by our own industry experts as one of the best in the business," said Michael Heinz, senior vice president, field operations, Pinnacle Security. "Developing and providing technology platforms that enable representatives to access data in real-time is another way we enhance the Pinnacle Security experience. …

... The annual ESI Forum Best Practice Awards Program recognizes outstanding business processes in the electronic security integration industry. A panel of anonymous industry experts selects the winners.

Other winners include: Mijac Alarm in the Financial, Legal and Human Capital Management category; Inner Security Systems, Inc. for the New Technology Implementation category; Pro-Tech Systems in the Profit-Generating Strategies category; and ASG Security, in the Sales and Marketing Management category.

 

Vance in Vegas; Five Diamonds for Johnson Controls

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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The last time SSN caught up with Mary Jo Vance, in April 2011, she was contemplating taking the summer off to “ride cross-country on my Harley” after leaving CenterPoint Technologies. Vance, better known in the industry as MJ, recently let CSAA members know she is “alive and very well in Vegas” after landing a new gig: manager of 1 Time Inc.’s new central station in Henderson, Nev.

MJ says she’ll have more details soon about her latest endeavor, but the company is still building its website and sorting through “new ideas and new adventures. … Right now we can’t give you the full picture.”

MJ served as vice president of operations and business development for CenterPoint for three years before what she described as an amicable departure last spring. A well-known and respected leader in the industry, she received the CSAA’s Manager of the Year award in 2007 and the Presidential Award from the Fire Marshals’ Association of Missouri in 2010.

Five Diamonds for Johnson: Congratulations to Johnson Controls’ central station in Milwaukee, which recently joined an elite group by earning Five Diamond certification from the CSAA. The station is among 132 of roughly 2,700 centrals nationwide to have received the distinction, according to the CSAA’s website.

To qualify, all of Johnson Controls’ central operators had to pass a CSAA online training course, proving their proficiency in alarm verification, PSAP communications, knowledge of electronic communications equipment and the standards of Underwriters Laboratories, Factory Mutual, the National Fire Protection Association and other organizations.

“This prestigious certification reflects the dedication and determination our central station operators bring to the job to help protect the many corporate customers we monitor every day in the U.S.,” Paul Pisarski, manager of field support and remote operations for the company’s Building Efficiency unit, said in a prepared statement.

Calling all duffers: Looking to get into the swing at ISC West before everyone hits the show floor? Then this one’s for you: the ninth annual Alarm Research and Educational Foundation (AIREF) golf tournament, scheduled for Tuesday, March 27 at the Revere Golf Club in Las Vegas.

The Electronic Security Association created the nonprofit AIREF in 1977 as a way to help raise money for industry research. Funding for the foundation is derived almost solely from the golf tournament, which promises players “a casual golf outing” with other industry professionals while supporting AIREF in the process.

To register for the tournament, visit www.airef.org. For more information, call 203-762-2444 or email Pat Remes at premes@airef.org.

Viniello leaving NFSA, but still passionate about the cause

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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

John Viniello, president of the National Fire Sprinkler Association, is stepping down after 28 years on the job.

In announcement on the Patterson, N.Y.-based organization’s website today, Viniello writes that he’ll retire as of March 1. “I will turn 70 years of age at the end of February and it’s time step down. It’s been a great run.”

He said that Russ Fleming, NFSA’s executive vice president will handle day-to-day association matters until a new president is elected. “I will work with him to insure a smooth transition of responsibilities,” Viniello pledged.

I haven’t met Viniello personally but have interviewed him over the phone on a number of stories. I’ve been impressed with the way he always returns my calls so promptly. I think that’s because he’s so passionate about the need for fire sprinklers that he never wants to miss an opportunity to get publicity for the cause.

A recent letter that he posted on the site is a good example of his passionate feelings about fire sprinklers. It’s an open letter to Chicago media outlets regarding a tragic fire in a high-rise apartment complex in that city last week.

A 32-year-old woman who lived at the Lake Shore Drive building died when she arrived on the 12th floor by elevator after a fire had begun in an apartment belonging to other tenants, the Associated Press reported. The elevator door opened onto an inferno and Shantel McCoy died of carbon monoxide intoxication and inhalation of smoke and soot, the AP said.

McCoy’s mother has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the companies that manage the building, the AP said. It said the Chicago Sun-Times reported that JoAnn McCoy claims her daughter still would be alive if a sprinkler system had “been in place to put out the Jan. 9 fire.”

Such a tragedy could happen again, Viniello warns in his strongly-worded letter to the editor. Here’s what he wrote:
 

Elevators stopping at the fire floor…no fire sprinklers installed. Sounds more like the script from the film “The Towering Inferno”. Yet, sadly it happened once again in the City of Chicago. It becomes painfully evident that hundreds of thousands of residents living in high-rise buildings throughout Chicago are at risk of dying in a fire. These “ovens in the sky” will continue to kill or injure Chicagoans, including firefighters, because of a failed administration, including the former and current Mayors and Board of Alderman. They all lack the political will to enact legislation that requires retrofitting these unsafe building with life saving fire sprinkler systems. It is not a question of if it will happen again. It’s a question of when. How high does the “body count” have to get before the city administration becomes proactive rather than reactive? Sadly, those “who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

 

Women in Security: Who are the industry leaders?

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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Do you have a female colleague who’s a great leader? Know someone who's given back to the women’s business community by mentoring or supporting other women in the security market? Consider nominating her for the Women’s Security Council’s “Women of the Year” awards. The deadline for nominations is Jan. 31.

Click here to nominate yourself or a colleague for WSC's Women of the Year awards.

In case you’re not familiar with the Women’s Security Council, it’s network of successful security professionals focused on promoting the advancement of women in the industry. WSC will recognize top female professionals in the physical security industry in a variety of categories. Winners will be honored during ISC West 2012 in Las Vegas. They’ll also be profiled in the special April 2012 eWSC awards newsletter and announced in an official WSC press release to be distributed at ISC West 2012.

DMP makes "All-American."

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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

A unique house is being built in Bozeman, Mont., and security products manufacturer Digital Monitoring Products (DMP) is playing a role in its construction.

Dubbed the “All-American Home,” the 2,200-square-foot dwelling, with an estimated final cost of $400,000, is being built with products that are predominantly American-made, according to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle newspaper. And now DMP, an independent manufacturer of intrusion, fire, access control, network and cellular communication products, has been chosen to provide the home’s security system—because that company says all its products are made in Springfield, Mo., where the company is based.

Here’s more from a news release the company sent out last week:
 

Digital Monitoring Products (DMP) has been selected to provide the security system for the All-American Home, being built in Bozeman MT, with the help of Kenco Security and Technology to install the system. Anders Lewendal, an economist turned builder, is constructing the 2,200 sq. ft., three-bedroom home entirely from U.S.-made products in order to demonstrate the economics and benefits of buying domestic goods. The XT Series Burglary/Fire/Door Access Panel chosen for the home, like all DMP products, is designed and made in Springfield MO. Kenco Security and Technology will install the system.

“It’s unfortunate that building a home from only U.S.-made materials is newsworthy,” said Vice President of Sales, Mark NeSmith. “DMP believes that there are many benefits to designing and building products right here in America. It enables us to stay more closely connected with customers, respond more personally and quickly to their needs, and expedite delivery of products. DMP is the only security technology company able to stamp ‘Made in America’ on every product we sell.” …

“As a local company, we are especially interested in the idea of buying American-made products in order to increase jobs here at home,” says Thad Lensing, Director of Sales and Marketing at Kenco, [which designs, sells, installs and services commercial and residential burglar and fire alarm systems in Montana and Wyoming, and provides monitoring for alarm subscribers from its Monitoring Center in Billings.] “We are proud to be part of the program, and hope it raises awareness of the benefits each of us can create just by buying products made here in the U.S.”

Everything from the nails, screws and bolts to the steel, staples and bathtub is made in the United States. In all, the home will include more than 120 products from more than 33 states.

In addition to proving that it’s possible to economically build a home using only domestic materials and products, Lewendal also sees this as an opportunity to stimulate the U.S. economy. He cites figures demonstrating that, if every builder bought just five percent more U.S.-made materials, it would create 220,000 jobs.

 

More money for VideoIQ

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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

VideoIQ yesterday announced it received $3.5 in funding from existing investors Atlas Venture, Matrix Partners and Tenaya Capital.
 
This is an expansion of a Series C funding round. In September, the company got $7.5 million in September from the above investors and another existing investor, Cisco.

Also in September, VideoIQ named Ed Bednarcik as its new CEO. Bednarchik, who is known for readying companies for IPOs, replaced Scott Schnell.

The company, which makes IP cameras and encoders with on-board storage and built-in self-calibrating analytics, said funding will be used to expand sales and product development teams. It also announced "record growth" over the past year. I’m currently enroute from the ESI Forum in Dallas to Maine, but am looking forward to getting more details from Ed Bednarcik during an interview tomorrow. I’ll have more on this deal, and the ESI Forum, in stories later this week.

Talking about new entrants in Dallas

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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

I’m in Dallas at the ESA Leadership Conference and ESI Forum.

If you’re at the event, check out the educational session I’m moderating today. It’s called "What the Arrival of New Industry Entrants Means for your Business"

The panelists are Joe Nuccio, CEO of ASG Security, and John Loud, president of Loud Security. We’ll be talking about  the cable and telco companies that are playing in security now.

There are seven at last count, and they’re not all taking the same approach. We’re going to take a look at who the new entrants are, analyze their offerings and approach, and talk about what traditional security companies should keep in mind as the competitive landscape shifts.

The session begins at 1:45 today. See you there.

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