50 YEARS IN THE INDUSTRY: Gold Celebrates Golden Anniversary in the Security Industry
The saying, “The more things change, the more they stay the same,” is true of Les Gold’s 50 years in the alarm industry.
“The issues then were the same as they are now,” Gold maintains. Those include false alarms and problems with the police departments and phone companies.
“The alarm companies were all dependent on the phone companies for their private lines or for any type of transmission,” he remembers. “We took the phone company on in their rate cases.”
Gold, now of the law firm Mitchell, Silberberg and Knupp, SDM’s contributing legal columnist and long-time counsel to the California Alarm Association (CAA), began practicing law in January 1957. Early in 1958, he was in his own law firm.
“I was invited to attend a meeting of what was then the original California Alarm Association,” he recalls. “They had issues with the police department, and phone companies, and with each other, and they asked me if I could help them.
“I advised them to talk to each other instead of at each other,” Gold relates. “These were all rugged individuals. They hired me for my first retainer in the alarm industry.”
Bob Leeper of U.S. Alarm, a past president of the Western Burglar and Fire Alarm Association, which was one of the names the CAA used at various times said, “We had to get some ethics into the association that we’re not going to go out and get each other’s accounts, and if a guy wanted to change alarms, you give us the first crack to try to keep our subscribers happy,” Leeper related.
The other problem Gold helped the CAA with was the phone company, which at that time was a monopoly. If you needed a telephone line, only one company could help you, and there was no other communication alternative, no cellular or Internet, and no wireless systems, so alarm companies were particularly sensitive to rate increases, or tariffs.
“Every day I was at Les Gold’s office about something,” Leeper remembers, usually about the phone company. “They filed for new tariffs every six months. As soon as they settled, they’d come out with another tariff. He was the one who fought the phone company for us.
“One of his chairs in his office had five big black books, like loose-leaf books, and those were all telephone tariffs, and he had read every one,” Leeper recalls. “When we went up against the phone company, they didn’t stand a chance on anything, because he knew what the tariffs were. They told me, ‘We’d like to have that attorney on our payroll.’”
Gold is happy to share the credit for his firm’s successes. “I have a pretty good team. A lot of our folks are involved in the industry in one way or another,” Gold points out. “Alan Pepper has been with me for almost 35 years. He started working for Morse Signal Devices and went to law school at night, and I hired him after he received his degree and made him a partner.”
“I’m still working every day, still representing CAA, still helping them solve their problems, and still involved in acquisition,” he asserts. “Whenever companies are looking to acquire or looking to sell, they frequently will call me to help them, and that is what we do. We either guide them to the right place or help them.”
Gold’s observation of the security industry is long-range enough that he sees the cycles of entrepreneurship. “It’s fairly easy to start an alarm company in your garage,” he concedes. “When they build it up to a certain level, it requires layers of management and much more in terms of financial resources, so they end up selling it and working for the acquired company, or waiting for the covenant to run out.”
Gold realized as he worked with one CAA member recently how he even witnesses the changing of the generations.
“I knew the grandfather so well, then I was working with the father, and now the daughter is calling me,” he muses. “It’s always nice when the generations come through. I get a big kick out of it.”