The man who minded ‘Amaz­ing Race’

Most of what I do is holis­tic risk man­age­ment, says for­mer SAS man

Central Otago Mirror - - NEWS - By JOHN EDENS

Last year, in Ghana, Bob Parr had to make a run for the bor­der and evac­u­ate a Dis­cov­ery Chan­nel doc­u­men­tary crew amid min­is­te­rial threats and gov­ern­ment ha­rass­ment. ‘‘That was an hours.’’ The Ar­row­town-based Emmy Award-win­ning tele­vi­sion pro­ducer, pri­vate se­cu­rity con­trac­tor and for­mer spe­cial forces op­er­a­tive splits his time be­tween New Zealand and the global de­mands of the job. Parr’s story starts with hum­ble be­gin­nings on the streets of Es­sex in the UK and teenage years aboard fish­ing boats be­fore join­ing the SAS, pri­vate se­cu­rity and risk man­age­ment jobs and a move into film in­dus­try pro­duc­tion. His day job with his New Zealand com­pany SO3 Projects pro­vides risk man­age­ment so­lu­tions all around the world, man­ag­ing lo­gis­tics for film crews and se­cu­rity in dicey spots around the world. Work­ing on a Dis­cov­ery Chan­nel show in Ghana, Jun­gle Gold, fol­low­ing two Amer­i­can prospec­tors on the hunt for min­ing spots the crew fell foul of pol­i­tick­ing sur­round­ing the gold­min­ing in­dus­try. Parr de­scribes it as shenani­gans

in­ter­est­ing

48 and said a gov­ern­ment min­is­ter threat­ened to ar­rest the crew and, even­tu­ally, he was forced to pull the film­mak­ers out, char­ter­ing a he­li­copter and a plane to get to the bor­der and out of the coun­try. ‘‘Most of what I do is holis­tic risk man­age­ment. ‘‘[SO3] is a tiny com­pany, it’s not a huge cor­po­ra­tion but the diver­sity of the work is quite ex­tra­or­di­nary. ‘‘It’s the only time I’ve had to evac­u­ate an en­tire pro­duc­tion.’’ Af­ter a no­table ca­reer in the army with the SAS, UK spe­cial forces and counter-ter­ror­ism units he worked in So­ma­lia in a fish­eries pro­tec­tion role amid an at­tempt at na­tion-build­ing. Con­trol Risks, a UK-based se­cu­rity firm, called him one day and said they wanted to dis­cuss a job of­fer in Hol­ly­wood. He thought they meant Holy­wood near Belfast, North­ern Ire­land –where he served dur­ing the Trou­bles – and im­me­di­ately said ‘‘no thanks’’ but then, once he re­alised it was Los An­ge­les, agreed to start a risk man­age­ment job for a new high-end TV se­ries. That se­ries was The Amaz­ing Race, start­ing in 2001. Parr racked up a decade with the se­ries, pick­ing up six Em­mys, trav­el­ling to 140 coun­tries with the teams and pro­duc­tion crews. The se­ries was a run­away suc­cess. ‘‘It was just in­sane, I’d never had any­thing to do with the me­dia be­fore, it was just crazy. I was pitched into the mid­dle of all

this.’’ Af­ter the first run he took a job as a mem­ber of a se­cu­rity team in Qatar but broke a con­tract when The Amaz­ing Race was re­newed for another sea­son, even­tu­ally work­ing on 18 races around the world. ‘‘I was do­ing the same pro­duc­tion lo­gis­tics and very unique to that show I be­came the pro­ducer that raced with the teams.’’ Trav­el­ling around the world, mix­ing with the pow­er­ful and the poor alike taught him that wealth is some­thing that should not be viewed as ei­ther in­tim­i­dat­ing or im­pres­sive. ‘‘I’ll never for­get the roots. I’ve en­coun­tered some of the deep­est wis­dom and great­est gen­eros­ity among the poor­est peo­ple in the world –and the in­verse. ‘‘I have been to some ex­tra­or­di­nary places and peo­ple of­ten ask me what’s the most beau­ti­ful.’’ The an­swer, he says, de­pends on the con­text. The United States has an enor­mous di­verse land­scape but it was New Zealand, where diver­sity was ac­ces­si­bly con­cen­trated in an area the size of Cal­i­for­nia, that won out. A qual­i­fied mas­ter yachts­man, his rough re­tire­ment plan in­volves sail­ing his hand­built yacht Koru from the north­ern hemi­sphere to New Zealand even though it might take 10 years or more. His pro­duc­tion cred­its in­clude The Amaz­ing Race for CBS, Shadow Force on The His­tory Chan­nel and Amer­ica’s Next Top Model. His army ca­reer started with the Bri­tish Armed Forces as a Royal Ma­rine then switched to the Spe­cial Forces where he spent 18 years in­clud­ing stints in the SAS, de­fence in­tel­li­gence units and na­tional in­tel­li­gence. His lat­est TV ven­ture, as a risk man­age­ment con­sul­tant, is called Man­hunt, a sur­vival­ist se­ries.

Threats: Bob Parr in Queen­stown.

Evac­u­a­tion: Bob on lo­ca­tion in Ghana last year.

Re­tire­ment plans: The Koru moored off St Lu­cia.

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