Deal launches SecurAmerica’s U.S. expansion

By Maria Saporta
Friday, March 19, 2010

Atlanta-based SecurAmerica LLC has acquired a Boston-based security firm in its quest to become one of the major national players in the fast-growing industry.

The acquisition comes only three months after it was announced that Tom Bell, former CEO of Cousins Properties Inc., joined the company as executive chairman.

The acquisition of Celadon Security Services Inc. and sister company North Shore Celadon Security Services Inc. will add another 300 employees and about $8 million in annual revenues to SecurAmerica’s existing 2,500 employees. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

With the acquisition, Bell said the company expects SecurAmerica’s sales to reach about $55 million in 2010.

“We will experience 50 percent-plus growth this year with acquisitions and organic growth,” Bell said, adding that it would be hard to maintain that rate of growth in future years. The company plans to make at least one more acquisition this year.

The acquisition is part of SecurAmerica’s national strategy to be in the major U.S. markets. The company plans to expand its footprint either through acquisitions or through internal growth.

John Adams, SecurAmerica’s president and chief operating officer, said the company is now in 23 markets with the Celadon acquisition.

The next market it plans to enter will be in New York, which Bell calls “the biggest, high-end” market for corporate clients, a sector that is central to SecurAmerica’s business plan.

After New York, the future markets will be Chicago and Southern California, specifically Los Angeles.

“We have built a back office and technology platform that is scalable,” Adams said.

That will ease SecurAmerica’s ability to grow in a fragmented industry.

“It’s a big industry, about $54 billion with 7 percent to 8 percent growth a year,” Bell said. “The top 10 companies in the United States only make up about 17 percent of the market. This is a hugely disaggregated market so the ability to build a business through organic growth and acquisition is really very powerful.”

In addition to targeting specific geographical markets, Adams and Bell also are working to build relationships with major customers that may have security needs in multiple locations. SecurAmerica provides those clients protection through security officers and guards.

Adams said that there are 14,500 licensed security companies in the United States, and the top two companies are owned by foreign firms.

One of SecurAmerica’s marketing advantages is its founder, Frank Argenbright, who built one of the largest aviation security firms in the country.

“Frank has sort of a legendary reputation among security companies,” Bell said. That helps open doors when Adams and Bell are reviewing acquisition targets.

Bell said Celadon and SecurAmerica are “very much aligned” as “high-touch” companies that focus on customer service and hiring top-quality security officers. “It’s a very good cultural fit,” Bell said. “We are very comfortable with the [transition] being very smooth.”

In five years, Bell said, the goal is not for SecurAmerica to be one of the biggest security firms in the country, but to be the best.

“Size to us is secondary. We want to build a quality company with quality service,” Bell said. “It’s an exciting time. We are growing rapidly — organically and through acquisitions. We’re off to the races.”

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

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