Damien Hirst, the British artist with a personal fortune estimated in excess of 300 million US dollars has hired four personal bodyguards who are all former members of the SAS, British special forces.
The artist turned to the firm that looked after Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe last year, after becoming concerned that his growing wealth might make him vulnerable to kidnapping and extortion. The guards will accompany Hirst, 43, and his family whenever they go on holiday, in particular on their frequent trips to a beachside home he owns in Mexico. A source said: "Damien isn't so much bothered about himself as his partner and their three sons. "They go every winter to a beach house there and having security was deemed to be an absolute must." Mexico has overtaken Colombia as the world's kidnapping capital, with 438 abductions last year. The authorities have set up an Anti-Kidnapping Squad. It includes 300 officers, spread across five cities, with the headquarters in Mexico City. US companies commonly provide bodyguards to employees travelling to Mexico. In September, Hirst banked an estimated £111million from a sale at Sotheby's of two years' worth of pickled animals, spot paintings, dead butterfly collages and stubbed-out cigarettes. Although he frequently donates millions to charity, several websites and blogs openly discuss their hatred for the artist. Among them are Facebook sites such as Anti-Damien Hirst, Damien Hirst Is Not An Artist and Damien Hirst Is A Massive Fraud. The artist hardly helped his cause when it was revealed last month that he had threatened to sue a teenager for alleged copyright theft. Graffiti artist Cartrain, 16, had made £200 from selling a satirical collage of Hirst's famous £50million diamond-encrusted skull. Hirst, however, did not see the funny side and contacted the Design and Artists Copyright Society. The revelation spawned a fresh round of criticism directed towards Hirst, with detractors demanding to know how he thought he could copyright a human skull.