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Identical twins Herman and Ferman King, grew up together, went to school together, and played together. So when Herman decided to go into business in 1996, the first person he turned to was his twin.
Dallas-based VIP Executive Protection Inc. provides bodyguard and security services for clients such as T.D. Jakes, Evander Holyfield, Deion Sanders, and Ross Perot. Revenues for the 45-employee firm totaled about $500,000 in 2001, and the King brothers, who each own 50% of the firm, are looking to double that this year. The Kings, both 42, expect rising demand for security services to drive growth as the company expands.
Both are members of the Potter’s House, a multiracial, nondenominational church of which T.D. Jakes is senior pastor. “He was the one who nudged us along and really set us on the road,” says Ferman, adding that Jakes was one of their first clients.
That road is a potentially lucrative one. The bodyguard industry is “an increasing and growing business,” according to Richard Kobetz, president of the Academy of Security Educators and Trainers, a trade group based in Berryville, Virginia. The industry’s current revenues range from $900 million to $1.2 billion annually. He points out that the typical client isn’t someone famous but more likely an executive, or an average person worrying about a stalker.
According to Herman, one of the benefits of owning this kind of business is the low overhead. The 10-year veteran from the Dallas County Sheriff Department says he started the business with roughly $500. “The tools and investments that you need for investigations are basically a recorder, a camera, [and] maybe a two-way radio, but it’s not a great deal of expense,” he says. The King brothers also structured their initial contracts so clients would pay a retainer.
Fees for bodyguard services vary. First, the Kings look at what they call a threat assessment. The greater the difficulty of the assignment, the more the cost. “It can go as low as $25 an hour. but when we have to go international and overseas, it can go as high as $1,000 a day or more.” says Herman. Looking the part is also important, according to Ferman, who stands 6’3″ and weighs 255 pounds. Herman stands 6’2″ and weighs 270.
One challenge is the inherent danger in guarding celebrities. Herman recalls one afternoon in Dallas where he was guarding Latin pop star Ricky Martin. In a shopping mall with some 18,000 screaming fans trying to get close to the star, Herman found himself pinned to a wall along with 35 police officers while trying to protect Martin. “It was a small riot, like a soccer game gone out of hand,” Herman recalls. “Motorcades and motorcycles were turned over. It turned out okay but it was a close enough call,” says Herman, who managed to help lead Martin to safety.
As the company looks to expand into Houston, San Antonio, and Austin, Texas; Rancho Cucamonga and Hollywood, California, the two brothers remain confident about its future, bolstered by their faith in