More Washington-Insider Clout Added to Viisage’s Board

Perhaps you’ve haven’t heard of Viisage Technology Inc. After all, the company isn’t a household name. It trades on NASDAQ, has a market capitalization of approximately $474 million, and it generated revenues that barely surpassed $66 million in 2005.

Take a close look, though. This company — specializing in a full array of biometric security solutions and technologies for government (mainly defense contracting), law-enforcement, and enterprise customers — is bred and built for success. Its chairman of the board is Robert V. LaPenta, founder and CEO of L-1 Investment Partners LLC, and a former executive at Loral Communications and a subsequent founder and driving force behind the success of defense contractor L-3 Communications. LaPenta is well connected to the defense establishment and the Pentagon, and his past corporate performance includes more than 60 acquisitions compiled during 30 years of executive-management experience.

LaPenta and his team have been busy putting together acquisitions at Viisage, including the purchase of privately held Iridian Technologies Inc., a developer of iris-recognition technology, for $35 million earlier this month. In an earlier post, I attempted to explain the significance of that deal and why I think Viisage is a company to watch. In sum, the company is assembling a comprehensive and unique product portfolio encompassing all the major biometric-security elements: fingerprint authentication, facial-recognition verification, and iris-scanning technology.

It will soon change its name to it L-1 Identity Solutions to better reflect its business focus.

But its vision, product strategy, and proficiency in acquisitions aren’t the only factors in its favor. Viisage, soon to be L-1 Identify Solutions, is forging connections in the upper reaches of the US government that will assure that it doesn’t get omitted from any RFPs relating to sophisticated defense-related security requirements. The company has built a heavyweight board, and two recent additions make it even stronger. Aside from LaPenta, who knows his way around Washington, the board includes Robert S. Gelbard, chairman of consultancy Washington Global Partners, LLC and a career diplomat who held several prominent ambassadorial positions; Charles E. Levine, former president of Sprint PCS; Harriet Mouchly-Weiss, founder and managing partner of consultancy Strategy XXI Group; and, last but not least, George J. Tenet (yes, that George J. Tenet), former director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

Recently, Viisage added two other influential names to its board: Admiral James M. Loy, former deputy secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) , and also a former commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard; and Louis Freeh (yes, that Louis Freeh), the former director of the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), who, it was announced today, will be joining the company’s board after the company completes its pending merger with Identix Inc., with which it combined earlier this year.

Now that’s a board with members whose phone calls are sure to be returned in the nation’s capital.

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