New Buy-and-Build Operation Focuses on Access Control Providers

Jan. 22, 2024
Alpine Investors has established Cobalt Service Partners by making its first acquisition, Piedmont Door Solutions

This article appeared in the January 2024 issue of Security Business magazine. Don’t forget to mention Security Business magazine on LinkedIn and @SecBusinessMag on Twitter if you share it.

Alpine Investors, a private equity firm with $16 billion in assets and three offices in San Francisco, New York, and Salt Lake City, recently launched Cobalt Service Partners, a new platform focused on buying and building access solutions businesses.

In conjunction with the launch, Cobalt announced its first acquisition of Piedmont Door Solutions, a provider of commercial doors and entrance solutions with locations across the Southeast, Southwest, and Mid-Atlantic.

Creating a New Industry Force

Led by Co-CEOs Tyler Hoffman and Anthony Gonzalez, Cobalt intends to move forward by acquiring additional security companies in the areas of overhead doors and docks, commercial doors, security gates, access control systems, and even video surveillance systems.

Hoffman, who has been tasked with overseeing M&A, was previously CEO of Radicle Health, an Alpine software business that completed eight acquisitions during his tenure. Gonzalez served in Congress from 2019 to 2023, representing his hometown district of Cleveland, Ohio. He previously worked as COO at InformedK12, an EdTech startup, and led sales at Beneco, an Alpine portfolio company. He was also a first-round draft pick of the Indianapolis Colts in 2007.

Why access control and security? Hoffman says they looked long and hard for large, fragmented markets where the supply of labor was not keeping pace with demand for services.

“It is in these markets that many owners have a particularly hard time finding a compelling long-term home for their business,” he explains. “Not only does the access solutions market strongly align with these criteria, but it also possesses a clear and compelling mission orientation that many markets lack. Our team is energized by the idea of supporting businesses whose mission is to help people move between and within buildings freely, while also keeping them safe.”   

Buying and Building: One Acquisition with More to Come

Founded in Charlotte, N.C. in 2001 by Pat Keane, Piedmont Door Solutions will continue to be led by its CEO, Chris Mitchell. “This partnership with Cobalt enables us to go faster and bigger than we ever imagined,” Mitchell says.

Adds Gonzalez: “Piedmont is poised for growth, and the Piedmont brand is here to stay, as are the brands of other businesses we bring into Cobalt. Many businesses that have grown historically have not made the necessary investments to sustain that growth into the future – Piedmont has.”

As with other buy-and-build operations that the security industry has become accustomed to, Cobalt intends to preserve each of the company brand names acquired, as well as most of their leadership. Alpine Investors is no stranger to the buy-and-build strategy. They have already proven the model in multiple other industries – particularly in those focused on field services.

“We are looking to partner with businesses with strong growth potential, and our job is then to help those businesses realize that growth potential via investments in technology, recruiting, and operational best practices, among many others,” Gonzalez says. “In some cases, it may make sense to consolidate branding at the local level, but even in those cases, it won’t be the Cobalt brand that subsumes a local brand. Cobalt’s customers are its businesses, like Piedmont; so, Cobalt will be supporting its businesses from behind the scenes. Customers of those businesses will continue to identify with the brands they know and love.”

As far as leadership and employees go, Gonzalez says that in many cases, the owner will be interested in partnering with Cobalt to bring new leadership into the business, enabling the founder or owner(s) to step aside from day-to-day operations.

“In other cases (such as with Piedmont), we will support the existing leadership team, even if we would look to supplement that team with someone who we have recruited centrally at the Cobalt level,” Gonzalez explains. “Either way, our strategy is not to rip out what made the business excellent in the first place – its people, culture, and reputation in the market. Employees of Cobalt’s businesses should expect to see ongoing and accelerated investments.”

Hoffman says Cobalt intends to move quickly with more acquisitions, beginning in 2024. He explains they do not have a specific goal in mind regarding the number of acquisitions, saying it is more about ensuring that Cobalt becomes the best long-term home for access solutions businesses.

“We know that most founders in this market care deeply about their people and their customers, and we’re confident that our message will resonate with them,” Hoffman says. “While we still have a lot of work to do, we are confident we will be able to quickly build significant scale.”

Geographically, Hoffman says they are focused on U.S. businesses that install and maintain access-related solutions and technology for commercial facilities. The most prevalent categories are overhead doors and docks, commercial doors (like Piedmont), security gates, access control, and video surveillance.

Gonzalez is also quick to point out that growth “cannot and will not” come at the cost of exceptional service to customers. “While we intend to grow our businesses significantly, we will do so sustainably and thoughtfully,” he adds. “It will be a direct result of doubling down on a commitment to exceptional service. Our primary goal is to live up to our mission, which is to secure legacies and unlock possibilities for businesses, teams, and founders’ futures. If our founders and their teams feel proud to call Cobalt their partner 5-10 years from now, we will know that we have succeeded.”

Paul Ragusa is senior editor for Locksmith Ledger International, an Endeavor Business Media Security publication. Learn more at