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Standing guard for rich and famous




Standing guard for rich and famous
Standing guard for rich and famous



http://www.boston.com/news/local/articles/2007/02/25/standing_guard_for_rich_and_famous/ 

By Billy Baker
Globe Correspondent 
February 25, 2007

Bodyguard.

The term triggers flashbulb images of starlets and rap moguls rolling 
into nightclubs in New York or LA surrounded by men built like NFL 
tackles.

But Boston, with its old money and big business, has a thriving 
bodyguard scene, too.

If you've never noticed it, that's the way they like it.

"We try to be chameleon-like and fit in with our surroundings," says 
Gerard Boniello , a managing partner of Corporate Resources Group , a 
local firm that specializes in high-end bodyguard work known as 
"executive protection."

"We don't like to use the term 'bodyguard,' " Boniello said. "It's an 
antiquated term and you have a picture of a muscle-bound guy in an 
ill-fitting suit who is sort of lumbering in the background. We have a 
term for those types: We call them 'bullet catchers.' They're just there 
to look intimidating. We're trying to dispel that myth. Our guys blend 
in."

Boston has more than a half-dozen companies that specialize in executive 
protection, whose agents operate more like the Secret Service than the 
paparazzi-shovers who surround celebrities like Britney Spears and Paris 
Hilton.

For a company to offer executive protection in Massachusetts, it must be 
licensed as a private investigator by the State Police, according to 
Boniello. Training requirements for a company's individual agents, who 
do not need licensing, are at the discretion of the employer, he said.

Executive protection focuses on avoiding conflict, not instigating it, 
according to Peter Brenker of the American Institute of Executive 
Protection, a New Jersey-based company that specializes in training 
agents.

Clients usually fall into two categories -- high-profile and high net 
worth -- and include children of the ultra-wealthy who attend 
prestigious universities and private schools in the Boston area. There's 
also a good business protecting wealthy clients, often from the Middle 
East, who come to Boston to take advantage of its hospital facilities, 
the operators say.

Executive protection does not come cheap. Short-term contracts can run 
up to $100 an hour for an agent from a high-end firm, according to 
Boniello, while those who require long-term, 24-hour protection -- which 
is rare, though not unheard of, in Boston -- usually pay $50 an hour. 
For a year, that adds up to $438,000 for a single person. Protection 
that involves an armored vehicle is even more expensive, in the 
neighborhood of $1,500 a day.

One of the fastest-growing areas of the business is in CEO protection, 
according to Ron Greco , director of services for the Bay Colony 
Investigators, a security firm that operates in the Boston area. Many 
insurance companies require kidnap and ransom protection for high-level 
executives. And with growing concern over disgruntled employees, 
companies are choosing to bolster their own security forces with private 
details, especially when a company is in the midst of staff cuts, 
according to Greco.

"When a client is in the process of layoffs, we'll usually sit in a 
neighboring office and monitor the termination on a radio," Greco said. 
"Layoffs can get very emotional."

Local agencies also do a thriving business with visiting celebrities and 
dignitaries, and are often contracted to add their knowledge of the area 
to the VIP's existing security detail. Greco said that Bay Colony 
Investigators has worked with dignitaries such as former president 
George H.W. Bush and Prince Andrew of England, entertainers Jerry 
Seinfeld and Oprah Winfrey , and star athletes such as Tiger Woods and 
New York Yankee players.

While executive protection focuses on thwarting physical danger, one of 
its most important functions is to protect against embarrassment, 
according to Harold Coyne , president of Coyne Consulting Group, a local 
company that specializes in high-end clientele and armored vehicle 
transportation.

Coyne says executive protection is far from the glamorous world of 
Hollywood muscle. "You don't see many 6-feet-8-inch, 400-pound guys in 
football jerseys standing around President Bush," he said.

"I've turned down a number of celebrities who want a big guy so they can 
look good. . . . That's not what we're about. You always hear about 
these bodyguards in the news, striking photographers and fans. I've been 
in this business for 23 years, and I can count on one hand the number of 
times I've had to put my hands on someone in a violent manner."

What surprises most people about this line of work, according to Coyne, 
is the monotony. "It's not James Bond. It's about being bored and 
standing outside a door drinking stale coffee. It's about going out the 
back door.

"I like to say we're butlers with guns. I worked for a year with a young 
lady who was a local college student. I went to class with her; I 
bartended the parties in her apartment. Nothing happened. Hardly anybody 
knew I was there. And that's how it should be. If we do our job right, 
nobody knows we're around."

Copyright 2007 Globe Newspaper Company.


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