Kidnapping and Extortion: Just Another Day at the Office
Updated: Sep 23, 2019
Michael A. Guidry is the founder of Guidry Group, a company established in 1985. The Guidry Group is a security services company.
Houston Chronicle, April 25, 2018, By Ilene Bassler
In an ideal world, no one would need the Guidry Group, an international kidnap and ransom, security services and crisis management company. In the actual world, the Guidry Group has resolved more than 70 kidnappings and 40 extortion cases. Its Crisis Management Team tackles an ever-growing number of global threats and emergencies such as terrorism, state-sponsored violence, cyberattacks and natural disasters.
Founded in 1985 and headquartered in Montgomery, the Guidry Group serves Fortune 500 companies, ultrahigh-net-worth individuals and U.S. government entities. CEO Michael Guidry recently discussed his challenging work with the Chronicle.
Q: What inspired you to start the Guidry Group?
A: Years ago, while working at a multinational corporation in Houston, I woke up thinking that I should try this business on my own.
Q: How did you get involved in kidnap and ransom?
A: My kidnap and ransom training began while I was a state trooper in Texas. I loved negotiating in hostage situations, so I put myself through training, not only in the U.S. but around the world. I continued training while at the international company — and still train today. This helps me stay current with the ways kidnappings and extortions can happen. Methods of payment, items requested for negotiations and more continue to change. My skills have to change with them.
Q: Who usually gets into the kidnap and ransom business?
A: Usually, it’s ex-law enforcement or military who have been trained by the local, state or federal government. Although now there are hostage negotiation courses.
People want someone with experience and a good reputation. Ultimately, it’s difficult to get job experience, no matter what field you come from. It took years for me to feel comfortable enough to even be the second person on a kidnap case.
Q: Do you have any special “tricks” to save kidnap victims?
A: Basically, we take over the situation and do the negotiations. I don’t know if I’d call our techniques “tricks.” We try to get into the perpetrators’ minds and determine what they really want. Experience is important, as is learning the “do’s” and “don’ts,” and doing more of the “do’s.” Keeping our clients — not happy, because they won’t be happy — but satisfied, is important.
Q: What is your company doing in the field of cyber security?
A: We are working with another company called Halo Privacy, which was formed by a group of ex-government people who have developed one of the best encryption systems available.
Many different companies are focusing on cybersecurity now. One problem in the field is staying ahead of it. We use encryption techniques and protect our clients' servers because communication and a business’s base of operations are so critical. But there's no silver bullet for any one client.
Q: Are China and/or Russia our two biggest threats?
A: Yes. From a state-sponsored standpoint, they are the ones to fear. If you’re traveling to either of those countries, you should assume, right or wrong, that they are wondering why you’re there and doing some sort of counter surveillance against you.
Q: Are our cybersecurity defenses good enough?
A: I think the US has the strongest defense against cybersecurity we can possibly have. We also engage in offensive measures to keep cyber hackers away. This is the battle of the future. I am not sure we’ll ever have all the answers. Cyber tactics change on a second-to-second basis.
Q: What are the biggest dangers facing Texas and the US?
A: It's difficult to separate Texas from the U.S. In Texas, the greatest fears are weather-related. South Texas has hurricanes, and North Texas has tornadoes. When it comes to technology, cyberattacks could cause power grids to go down, blacking out large areas. Countries like Russia and China continue to attack our cyber-infrastructure. As tensions mount, we could see even more attacks.
Ultimately, future wars will be cyber-based — shutting down critical infrastructure like the electrical grids and targeting financial institutions. It's vital that we protect our infrastructure.
Three things keep a country alive: finance, communication and energy. These are like three legs of a three-legged stool. Cutting down one hurts the others.
Q: Can you describe your first infrastructure project?
A: We're working in Libya to build the largest deep-sea port in North Africa. I went to Libya for security reasons about four years ago. I fell in love with the people and started thinking about ways to help them. There's a tremendous amount of conflict there and not many options for young people. One reason people join ISIS, aside from ideologies, is that there's little else to do except odd jobs, like selling vegetables on a corner; nothing that provides a great foundation for a future. We thought that they would be excited about new opportunities and strengthening their country. It's working already.
Of course, we'll always have wars in conflict countries. But I think we've proven through Afghanistan and Iraq that, until we go in with a plan, we're chasing our tails. Today people are doing business projects in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, I'm not sure that we're getting the communities involved enough in rebuilding their country.
Keep in mind, Libya was a dictatorship for over 40 years. After Gadhafi was forced out, there was a void. The population didn't have a great understanding of business and how to attract outside investors. Countries that have never been a democracy do not know how a democracy should work. Strong people start filling the void and taking advantage of their power. We repeatedly have made situations worse by intervening without a complete plan. We should step back and try something else.
Q: What is your best success story?
A: Stories concerning our efforts to bring peace to Libya. People have gone from having no hope or direction to really wanting to help their community and change the country’s focus.
Q: What work has the Guidry Legacy Foundation (a nonprofit) done in Libya?
A: Recently, I learned that around 100 children needed emergency heart surgery. So, we contacted a heart surgeon, and he went over and performed surgery on 64 of the children. Unfortunately, there’s more to do, but talk about a great feeling!
Q: Do you get donations or government funding for helping the children?
A: So far, I’ve been funding this on my own. No one working on the project now gets paid. We hope to get donations in the future.
Q: Do you anticipate using Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) for infrastructure projects, such as the one in Libya?
A: The deep-sea port project in Libya is a “BOT” (Build, Operate and Transfer, a type of PPP). After 35 years, the project goes back to the government. Right now, the Libyans have so many issues they are unable to contribute anything to the project. But I think PPP arrangements are the wave of the future. Since we’re the only American company working in Libya now, I’m hoping we can influence other companies to move in and assist us in rebuilding the country. And I hope governments start calling us to help them get business from the U.S. and other countries. That would be a terrific success.