Baltimore athletic apparel company Under Armour Inc. has added some more muscle to its brand, hiring the former head of the Baltimore Police Department as its first chief security officer.
Former commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III, who retired from the department in 2012 after 31 years, said he has been asked to take a "macro-level" approach to security at the firm, which is moving aggressively to expand its presence abroad.
Bealefeld, who started full time at Under Armour July 1 and reports to the chief operating officer, said his responsibilities will focus on the safety of Under Armour's employees, worldwide distribution centers and a growing number of stores. Online and copyright security will remain in other departments, he said.
"Our safety component is small in comparison [to the overall firm], but it's growing and we want to be strategic about how we do that," Bealefeld said, noting that one of the Under Armour's early themes was "Protect this House."
"There's much more to it than just making sure no one steals our stuff and that no cars get taken off the parking lot."
Diane Ritchey, Michigan-based editor of the corporate security trade publication Security Magazine, said companies often draw from the ranks of law enforcement to help with security.
For example, New York City and Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton served a three-year stint at private security firm Kroll Advisory Solutions, and Apple's former vice president of global security, John Theriault, worked for the FBI for more than two decades.
"A company's brand could be completely tarnished in a second by an act of violence or security incident, and there's no going back," Ritchey said. "Companies need to protect their workforce … and they're recognizing they need to be proactive in mitigating any kind of security incident."
Under Armour, which drew about 94 percent of its $2.3 billion net revenue in 2013 from North America, has said repeatedly that its growth depends in part on competing in the international market.
But in many ways, it's already a global operation, with offices on nearly every continent and manufacturing partners in 19 countries at the end of 2013. More than half of its raw fabric and finished product last year come from abroad.
For growth to continue, it will not only have to find new customers, but also expand those networks. Its 2013 annual report identified rapid growth as a potential risk to the company, citing the difficulty of finding raw materials and manufacturing capacity, as well as the risks of operating outside U.S. borders.
Bealefeld's responsibilities include figuring out how to respond to major weather events that might disrupt the supply chain and how to protect traveling employees. He said one of his first tasks will be finding a better way to control access to the company, which has more than 7,000 employees.
"As we expand … Fred will play a large role in the safety of our teammates domestically and abroad," said Under Armour spokesman CJ Koluch.
Bealefeld, 51, said he met Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank early in his five-year tenure as police commissioner, spending a weekend in Western Maryland with him and a mutual friend. That contact parlayed into visits from Plank to the department, as well as donations, such as the $100,000 that helped upgrade facilities in the Southern District, he said.
Bealefeld, who referred to Plank as "KP" and called him a "great friend," started working as a consultant for the company this winter, helping with security at the company's Preakness party.
"It was a great opportunity to have a peek at what the job might entail and a chance to evaluate if I was a good fit," he said.
Bealefeld declined to give his salary but said the company had been "very generous." He said he stopped working at Stevenson University, where he taught criminal justice, on June 30.
Bealefeld was in the news in May after he and group of Stevenson students and faculty were robbed at gunpoint in South Africa. The group lost wallets, cellphones, passports and other valuables, but no one was hurt. "We had the obligation not to do anything stupid," Bealefeld said at the time.
"I really wasn't looking for a job. … The circumstances were such that it found me," he said of the Under Armour position. "It is an organization and a product and strategy and philosophy that I can be passionate about again."