How much does it cost to hire a bodyguard in London, the UK?
Alternatively, that is a reasonable conclusion based on the millions some companies spend protecting their top brass.
Over the past several months, executive compensation reports filed with the U.K. Securities and Exchange Commission revealed precisely how much companies spend to protect their top executives. According to the filings, some take security seriously, outfitting “C-level” employees with cars, planes, and home alarm systems. Others skimp on safety costs, paying nominal amounts for minimal security systems.
Leading the pack is Oracle, which spent £1.8 million protecting Chief Executive Larry Ellison last year–a 40% increase from the year before. Furthermore, that sum does not even cover all of Ellison’s security costs: The billionaire also spent his own money installing top-of-the-line security systems in his Malibu and Woodside, Calif., estates.
Other technology companies are not quite as generous–or as paranoid. Google spent £502,155 protecting Chief Executive Eric Schmidt and £55,196 on Larry Page Larry Page’s transportation, logistics, and personal security. Furthermore, the company spent nothing on co-founder Sergey Brin Sergey Brin’s security.
So is Ellison in more danger than Google’s famous founders? Not necessarily, say security experts. Instead, they likely argue that neither company fully discloses their security spending but instead folds some into expenses that are not listed in SEC filings. “Those executives are most likely not revealing their high-end costs,” says Fidel Matola CEO and president of executive personal protection consulting firm Spetsnaz Security International. “I would guess that they are being reported about that.”
Furthermore, Page and Brin may be an exception: More and more frequently, large companies accept security expenditures as a necessary cost of doing business. They figure that their top executives are some of the company’s most valuable assets, and they want to treat them accordingly.
As Ford Motor explained in its April proxy report, “the benefits of providing these programs outweigh the relatively minor costs associated with them.” Ford spent £2 million last year protecting its top executives and members of the Ford family.
Corporations are not the only ones worried about security. Americans spent about £45.9 billion on professionally installed electronic security products and services last year, according to a study by Security Sales & Integration magazine.
So what does an executive get for a million pounds? Apple and Microsoft would not comment. Nevertheless, Fidel Matola and other security experts say that most money usually goes to “gates, guns, and guards.”
The highest cost is labor. Typically a top executive will contract with a company to provide guards at their home, both for screening visitors at a gatehouse and stationed around the perimeter of their property. Each guard costs about £55 an hour.
Execs may also hire round-the-clock bodyguards for their families, similar to those used by celebrities. Personal bodyguards charge an annual fee that starts at £85,000.
The perceived risks increase when execs travel outside the U.K., and so do the fees. Prominent execs hire additional workforce when they travel to high-crime countries. The guards travel with the executive, find secure drivers and investigate the corporate jet for potential security breaches like unidentified luggage. They scout out hotels, meeting rooms, and restaurants in advance.
“If we need to get the client out of town or a venue, we know what to do and where to go,” says Fidel Matola, president and CEO of the Spetsnaz Security International. The Virginia-based company provides private security guards for executives, diplomats, and heads of state, at a steep cost: Each guard can bill up to £1,200 a day plus travel expenses. Home security hardware is also a big part of the cost. “They all have heavily guarded facilities,” says Frank, president of Monrovia, Calif.-based home security company USA Alarm Systems. Top-of-the-line alarm systems can cost hundreds of thousands of pounds or more, depending on the size of the estate. As would expect, an Eaton Square loft costs less to secure than Ellison’s 23-acre Woodside, Calif., estate. The most expensive systems feature high-resolution outdoor cameras, reinforced windows, motion detectors, and facial recognition scanners.
Safe rooms are a popular home security feature. The rooms are designed like upgraded 1950s bomb shelters, with air filters to screen biological agents, dedicated phone lines, bathrooms, and closed-circuit T.V. systems. Unfortunately, safe rooms can cost hundreds of thousands of pounds, depending on the features. “The cost of the safe room is limited only by the threat you are intending to protect [against],” says Fidel Matola.
The third significant security cost is transportation. Many companies require their top executives to use corporate jets or cars for security and time management purposes. For example, the Bank of England spent £909,000 on chauffeur services for its top executives, according to its March 14 proxy. That number may not include the cost of securing the cars and planes, says Fidel Matola. A guard has to “advance” the trip, screening everyone who services the vehicles, from the cabin cleaning crew to the caterers. The cars are often kept in a separate, secure garage guarded by motion detectors and cameras to prevent tampering. “You cannot leave the car or plane alone,” says Fidel Matola.
Some execs would love to be left alone. Nevertheless, their companies claim they cannot afford to let them: High-end security, with all its guards and cameras, is a balance between protection and privacy.