Hostage to fortune

first_imgMany British businessmen consider the bodyguards employed by their UScounterparts as unnecessary, but there are signs the safety-first attitude istaking hold. So where does HR fit in? The British have always had an ambivalent attitude towards overtly heavysecurity, often viewing such ostentation as sensationalist and perhaps evensuspect in its own right. When Tom Bower published his unauthorised biographyof Mohamed Al Fayed, some of the more compelling passages related to his use ofarmed bodyguards – or “donkeys”, as Al Fayed calls them – who were tobe seen accompanying their boss on his daily rounds through Harrods. At onepoint as many as 40 donkeys were employed. They were so well paid they jokedthey could not fold their wallets. No doubt this private army gave Al Fayed agreater sense of personal security, but others claimed baser motives. As Bowerconcludes, “They were retained not as bullet-stoppers, but to reinforcehis sense of power.”But despite boasting one of the oldest and most respected secret services inthe world, “Brits don’t like to admit they need close protection,”says former Special Branch officer Phil Brown, who now runs his own security consultingfirm Philip Brown Services – an independent operation affiliated to SecurityConsortium International. Brown claims the reason for this is that stereotypeof the stiff upper-lip is still much in evidence. “But Europeans as awhole seem less paranoid, with the exception of the Italians.”US executivesThus the staple of Brown’s commercial – as opposed to diplomatic – businesscontinues to be visiting US executives. “The Americans are very windy [ie,frightened]. They seem to think the world stops at the shores of the US. Moreand more business executives are getting protection just to visit Europe. Weusually do a threat analysis on them, and apart from the fact they are verywealthy, there is usually no perceived threat. But they want the security anyway.”There are signs, however, that this safety-first attitude is beginning totrickle down to the ranks of non-US organisations. Perhaps this is the resultof globalisation; or perhaps it is due to what might be termed theAmericanisation of business culture – but figures show that UK companies areassigning a growing chunk of their budgets to personal security. This mighttake the form of providing “close protection” for executivesattending special events – product launches, merger announcements and so on –or of sending those deemed most at risk on security awareness courses. Eitherway, business is booming in the bodyguard recruitment area. At London-basedExcel Security, for instance, annual turnover has mushroomed to £6m in recentyears.Driving forceIn some industries the driving force behind the need for heightened securityis straightforward crime. For example, the computer distribution industry hasrecently been dogged by the threat of armed heists, with gangs, bearingsawn-off shotguns, descending on premises in search of valuable commoditiessuch as chips and memory boards.But Brown believes another reason for this increased awareness of securityissues is a perceived resurgence of some of the “anarchist, nihilistgroups” which so terrorised business and government alike in the 1970s(see box). “They died away in the 1980s and 90s – the head of the animal waschopped off – but they seem to be coming back. It seems to be cyclical:politics in Europe is beginning to swing to the right again, so you will getleft-wing groups coming through.” As evidence of this he cites increasedactivity by groups in France and Northern Italy.The recent violent grass-roots demonstrations in London and Seattle havealso provoked concern in business circles. As one security source in thepharmaceutical industry points out, “They show what appears to be agrowing distrust of the relationship between large global corporations andgovernments – as if we are operating hand-in-glove against the interests of themasses. That is clearly not the case – there are no such conspiracies. But thefact that some of these groups believe they do exist is cause enough forconcern.”Christopher Grose, director of information at London-based security groupControl Risk, agrees. “At the moment there is concern about anarchistgroups and extreme advocacy groups such as the Animal Liberation organisations.Companies have to consider who they are investing in – there are examples ofbank executives suddenly getting hate-mail and threatening phone calls.”Nonetheless, it is still the case that “we don’t see much of that”in the UK. Thus the bulk of Control Risk’s work with British executives isstill taken up with advising on the scale of risk for those travelling ormoving to foreign locations. “People want to know about the countries theyare going to and who they are doing business with.” Intelligence considerations like these aside, “We provide personalsecurity advice, which is usually tailored to individual executives and theirfamilies,” says Grose. “Once they are in their new location, we willsend out our people to go through every physical element of risk andprocedures.”But when it comes to bodyguards, Grose advises using people on the ground ina given territory, rather than importing a bunch of hefty ex-squaddies. Such anapproach is hardly subtle – indeed, in common with many other members of thesecurity industry, he is down-beat about the use of bodyguards per se.”Some people do use bodyguards but there are disadvantages – they are veryhigh profile, very expensive, and you need to have them with you all the time.For the great majority of people they are not a practicable option.” A far better option, given that 99 per cent of kidnappings and murders takeplace near the victim’s car, is to invest in a good driver, trained indefensive driving.Other providers are keen to stress the distinction between bodyguards and”close protection”.Discrete protection”Mike Tyson has bodyguards, most of our guys are ex-Special Branch orspecial services,” says Brown. “The biggest, heaviest thug is aboutas much good as an ashtray on a motorbike. Our customers want discreteprotection.” For this, expect to pay between £300 and £500 a day. Brown isalso keen to promote discretion when it comes to the choice of vehicle.”We have got an armoured BMW. You can see an armoured Merc three milesaway, but our BMW is very discrete.”This emphasis on presentation is also found at Excel Security, wheretrainers claim that 80 per cent of bodyguards lose their jobs, not because theyare found wanting in the physical hardness department, but because of theirlack of protocol. Consequently, the organisation devotes a large slice of itstraining programme to ensuring that recruits are as schooled in the arts ofpresentation, etiquette, and discretion as any 1950s debutante. With corporatedress-codes now tending towards the more informal, the chances are that the guyin the pin-striped suit is not the chief exec, but his bodyguard.Unsurprisingly, few organisations will speak about security arrangements. Asone chief of security says, “I wouldn’t be thanked by my senior colleaguesfor drawing attention to how they travel.”A Microsoft spokeswoman adds, “We do not have any specific measures inthe UK, and we will not comment on high-profile visitors like Bill Gates orSteve Balmer, it is a slightly sensitive subject.” Most concede the practice of hiring external bodyguards is becoming morewidespread. Some believe, however, this is as much a result of the burgeoningsecurity industry’s marketing programmes as it is a reaction to a real riskincrease. “It is becoming more common, because more people are offeringservices. There has been a growth in consultants,” says the securitydirector of one high-profile organisation which has been targeted by protestgroups in the past. “Business executives are travelling more and few wouldsay, ‘I’m bullet-proof. I don’t care’.”He believes companies should undertake formal risk assessment programmes todetermine which executives most merit personal protection. Factors to considerinclude the subject’s past track record, public profile, personal allegiancesand whether they are affiliated to any other potentially controversialorganisation. When posted abroad the vulnerability of the family is also a keyconsideration. “But in most companies it doesn’t work like that: theserules aren’t followed and protection is often assigned not on the basis of arisk assessment, but rather more informally. Those board members who shoutloudest tend to get their way. Some certainly consider it a statussymbol.”At the opposite end of the spectrum are those executives “who don’tlike to feel they are being watched by the company” and tend to avoidprotection at all costs. This can pose problems for the security department.”If we get a call on Sunday and hear Fred Bloggs has gone missing it isvery difficult to act if we have no idea of his habits or movements.”HR’s roleMany senior security officers believe this is one area where HR can make apositive contribution to security arrangements – if the two departments canpool information relating to the habits or lifestyle of individuals which couldbe drawn on in an emergency, the job of protecting them becomes much easier.”It comes down to scratching backs,” says one.Although security staff concede looking after employees is clearly thenumber one priority of the HR department, few believe HR should take the leadin formulating security policy, let alone recruiting protection personnel.”It might appeal to HR directors as a good thing to do – I should know, mywife’s one,” says one source. But in his experience companies prefer toleave these matters to the experts.Crisis managementThat said, “Security and HR have a lot to talk about when it comes tocrisis management should the worst happen. A lot of companies are lesssecurity-focused than us, and they would benefit from forward planning. Theyneed to ask, what would happen if the chief executive were kidnapped? Whatmeasures would kick in? Who would take over? And so on”He believes another issue which organisations should investigate isinsurance to cover payments if an executive is kidnapped. “However, a lotof companies are questioning the wisdom of this. Is it sensible to become knownas a company that insures its staff? And most big corporations these days couldafford an upfront ransom demand.”A far better idea – particularly for organisations operating abroad – is tokeep a firm of international security consultants on retainer. As well asproviding general information on potential risks in a given territory, theywould have people on the ground to act quickly in an emergency. “It costsyou a huge amount of money to hire these people on an ad hoc basis, but if youpay them on retainer it works out much cheaper and you also get the benefit oftheir intelligence services on a regular basis.”High-profile business cases* Baader-Meinhof, The Red Brigade, Black September, The SymbioneseLiberation Army (slogan: “Death to the fascist insect that preys on thelife of the people”). These were some of the groups which inspired terror in the internationalbusiness community in the 1970s – an era which might be dubbed the golden ageof kidnapping, were it not in such questionable taste. Although some observersclaim there are signs of resurgence in such groups, others maintain they were aone-off product of their time. But as the tragic deaths of four Granger Telecomengineers in Chechnya demonstrates, the issue of kidnapping remains a permanentblack cloud hanging over Western business organisations. The causes may change,but the threat remains.1971 Angry Brigade bombs Secretary of State for Employment Robert Carr’shouse. It had previously planted bombs near a BBC van in protest at the MissWorld contest.1972 Four members of the Angry Brigade jailed at the Old Bailey for a seriesof bombings and attempted kidnappings between 1968 and 1971. The judge toldthem, “Undoubtedly a warped understanding of sociology has brought you towhere you are.”1972 Argentina: abduction of a Fiat director.1972 Three British hostages killed in Turkey as police storm theirkidnappers’ hide-out.1972 The arrest of Ulrike Meinhof and Andreas Baader is seen as a major steptowards the end of a reign of terror in Europe1973 Head of Marks & Spencer Joseph Sieff shot by a gunman at his StJohn’s Wood home in London. The Arab group Black September is held responsible.Sieff survived. He was probably shot for his support for Zionist causes.1973 John Paul Getty III, grandson of US oil tycoon, set free by Italiankidnappers who had held him for six months. They cut off his right ear andexacted a ransom demand of $750,000.1973 Oil giant Exxon announced it would pay a $10m ransom to Argentinian kidnappersfor the release of US executive Victor S Samuelson, kidnapped at a Buenos Airesrefinery.1974 Newspaper heiress Patty Hearst kidnapped by a US group styling itselfthe Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA). Months later she was filmed robbing abank with members of the group.1975 Patty Hearst captured and jailed for seven years. Released early byPresident Jimmy Carter, she later married her bodyguard.1975 Lord Sainsbury’s name found on a list of prominent potential targets,including Yehudi Menuhin and Bernard Delfont in a London “safe house”used by international killer Carlos the Jackal.1977 The body of kidnapped German industrialist Hans Martin Scheleyer foundin a car boot in Alsace.1980 The family of electronics engineer Rolf Schild kidnapped by Sardinianbandits. Daughter Annabel held for seven months. Schild’s negotiators handedover L500m (about £262,000). Related posts:No related photos. Previous Article Next Article Comments are closed. Hostage to fortuneOn 22 Feb 2000 in Personnel Todaylast_img read more

Lola’s Cupcakes boosts sales with new website

first_imgLola’s Cupcakes has seen sales rise thanks to the relaunch of its website.The London-based cupcake company has revamped and expanded its online presence, and has introduced a new range of children’s birthday cakes, as well as a wedding range.Meanwhile, the brand has now opened its 14th location in Canary Wharf.A spokesperson from Lola’s said: “We decided that our old site could do with a facelift, so we spent a long time designing, building, creating and, most importantly, tasting for our new website.“The new design is much more user-friendly and offers our customers a variety of options that were never available before. We’ve also developed brand new products, including a fantastic range of children’s birthday cakes, a new wedding range and selection of edible numbers.“Not only this, our customers can now create their own bespoke designs by handpicking their flavour of sponge and icing, as well as choosing their own decoration. So far the response to our new website has been incredible. Sales have increased since its launch and we’ve had fantastic feedback on the new designs.”last_img read more

Trail Blazers: Our Best Adventure Yet

first_imgDiamonds in the Rough: Trail Blazers search for gemstones beneath Douglas Falls in Pisgah National Forest, N.C. Photo: Nicole HinebaughKentavius can see the Blue Ridge Mountains from his apartment beside the interstate in downtown Asheville. But the nine-year-old had never hiked in them until last month.Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine has helped create the Trail Blazers Youth Adventure Club. Children from inner city communities are learning outdoor skills on a series of adventures throughout the summer.Last month, I accompanied Kentavius and twelve other Trail Blazers on a hike to Douglas Falls, a 70-foot waterfall surrounded by an old-growth forest. The kids, who ranged in age from 8 to 14, were awestruck. None of them had ever been hiking in a national forest; most had never left the city.They marveled at yellow-striped millipedes and the towering trees, including an overturned hemlock with its intricate root system exposed. “This was all underground? Daaang!” said ten-year-old Tahtiona.More than once, I was asked if cobras and anacondas lived in this forest. But by the time the kids reached the waterfall, they had completely forgotten about snakes. They quickly splashed across the creek to stand beneath the falls.As the frigid water pounded down on them, Alexus screamed with wild, shrill delight; Diontae flexed his muscles; Kentavius simply extended his arms and looked skyward, smiling.Afterward, the kids climbed into an old rock cave, scampered up a steep dirt trail, searched for gemstones in the creek, and even shimmied across an old log suspended between two boulders. They were adventurers exploring a brave new world, far away from the barren concrete of their public housing block.Nearly every day of their childhood has been filled with the sounds of the interstate. But for a few hours, they heard the wind in the trees and water cascading over rock. And on the hike back to the trailhead, they stopped walking, stopped talking, and for a few moments, just listened to the silence of the forest.The Asheville-based Trail Blazers are organized by the heroic Nicole Hinebaugh and volunteers from the Women’s Wellbeing and Development Foundation. We plan on expanding the Trail Blazers Club into other towns across the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic. Let us know if you’d like to lead a hike or lend a hand. Upcoming hikes, photo galleries, and additional information can be found at trailblazersclub.org.We hope that the Trail Blazers experience will inspire more kids like Kentavius, who discovered that those distant summits are within his reach. 1 2last_img read more

The Latest: Indians’ DeShields Jr. tests positive for virus

first_imgLafayette informed the Naval Academy that it cannot bring its football team back to campus in time to meet medical advisory guidelines established by the FBS.Navy is seeking to fill the date with another opponent.___The Green Bay Packers are optimistic they will have fans at Lambeau Field this season, but they note that seating capacity would be cut significantly and spectators must wear face coverings.The NFL club also acknowledges the “possibility that Lambeau Field will be unable to host fans for games this season” because of the pandemic. Training camps across the league are to begin in mid-July. The Latest: Indians’ DeShields Jr. tests positive for virus Chris Antonetti, the team’s president of baseball operations, said DeShields tested positive before coming to Cleveland. The Indians held their first workout at Progressive Field on Friday.Antonetti said DeShields is doing well and has only had “very mild symptoms” at this point. He’ll have to twice test negative before he’s permitted to re-join the ballclub.The 27-year-old DeShields spent the past five seasons with Texas. He was acquired by the Indians in the offseason trade that sent two-time Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber to the Rangers.___The Sept. 12 football game between Lafayette College and Navy has been canceled. July 3, 2020 Share This StoryFacebookTwitteremailPrintLinkedinRedditThe Latest on the effects of the coronavirus outbreak on sports around the world:___Indians outfielder Delino DeShields Jr. has tested positive for the coronavirus and is being quarantined from his teammates.center_img Reduced seating capacity means the Packers can’t guarantee that ticket holders in the general bowl and club seats will be able to reserve tickets. Season-ticket holders will be asked if they want to be part of a process allowing them a chance to reserve tickets. Those who opt out can have their 2020 payment refunded in full or credited to 2021. If they opt out, their status as season-ticket holders and their existing seats and ticket packages will remain in place for next season.___The Latvian soccer federation says its national team will play a postponed friendly at Montenegro on Oct. 7.The match in Podgorica was originally scheduled to be played March 26 but was called off because of the coronavirus pandemic. Associated Press The Baltic News Service reported the new date.Soccer has resumed around much of Europe in empty stadiums. The Champions League is scheduled to be completed in August at a mini-tournament in Portugal.___More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sportslast_img read more