Billionaire Security: Behind the Scenes with Warren Buffett’s Bodyguard
Warren Buffett’s bodyguard punched me in the head, and it hurt.
The bodyguard, Dan Clark, didn’t mean for it to hurt, he was just demonstrating a fighting move called the brachial stun. That’s a strike to the side of the neck using a chopping motion with the hands — but when Clark hit me with it in a slow speed demonstration, the sudden burst of force whipped my whole head to the right, crashing my teeth together so hard that I thought I would lose a filling.
That’s what Dan Clark is like — even his demonstrations are intense.
He’s the kind of guy who throws around phrases like the “muay Thai clench with a double knee strike,” and who, when he emails you to invite you to his training session, reminds you politely to bring a cup.
All of it — the gym, the training, and especially the punch — combine to send a clear message: Don’t mess with Buffett, or any of Clark’s other clients. And that’s kind of the point.
The gym we’re standing in is attached to the offices of his company, Clark International, in Omaha, Neb. Clark, with his square build and close cropped red hair, looks every inch the former Omaha police officer he once was.
But then he met Warren Buffett, the billionaire investor known as the Oracle of Omaha, and in 1995 became Buffett’s go-to guy for personal security. When you see Buffett walking the floor at his annual investor conference, Clark is usually positioned just to Buffett’s side — keeping the crowd from surging too close to the elderly billionaire, and making sure the camera crews don’t trample anybody.
Such close proximity to an icon of American business inspired an entrepreneurial instinct in Clark, so he founded his own security company. Today, Clark International provides security services for high profile people including former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin and actor George Clooney, along with a list of others he declines to name.
We flew to Nebraska to spend some time with him this spring, during a two-day executive training session Clark had organized for dozens of full- and part-time security guards. Only a handful are full-time employees. The rest are contractors on call for big jobs that require more bodies on the ground.
The men — and one woman — clearly respect the man who’s training them, occasionally clobbering them, and who may just sign their next pay check. Two or three are veterans of the mixed martial arts fighting circuit. But even they call Clark “sir.”
Training with Dan Clark and his team
I’ve never even seen a machine gun fired in person before. But Clark’s team has access to the same outdoor gun range that the Omaha National Guard SWAT team uses, and they’ve rolled an old car onto the dirt strip in front of the targets.