The private security firm once known as Blackwater, which was forced out of Iraq after a shooting incident in which 17 civilians died, has changed its name for the second time in three years as it tries to win the right to do business in Iraq again.
CEO Ted Wright said that the newest name, Academi, was an attempt to demonstrate that the firm had become "a new company" since investors bought it one year ago from founder Erik Prince -- a company that potential clients would find nice and "boring."
Blackwater changed its name to Xe Services in early 2009, and also had a number of subsidiary and affiliate companies that did business under other names. Wright said that all branches would now operate under the new name. "We have simplified our legal structure so everything is under the Academi name, with the exception of joint ventures."
Under the name Academi, the company is working with a consulting firm to win a license to work in Iraq again. "The opportunity in Iraq is large," said Wright, "and after U.S. troops leave, commercial companies doing business in Iraq will also need our services."
The company's license to operate in Iraq was revoked after a Sept. 16, 2007 incident in which 17 civilians were killed by Blackwater contractors in Baghdad's Nisour Square. Blackwater guards opened fire while attempting to clear the path for a State Department convoy. Manslaughter charges against the contractors were ultimately dropped.
Asked whether Prince would have any relationship with the new company, Mr. Wright replied, "no, [Prince] has no involvement, ownership, or control operationally. I've never met the man."
Prince, a former Navy SEAL, founded Blackwater in 1997 and built a multi-thousand-acre complex in Moyock, North Carolina. Blackwater won more than $2 billion in federal contracts and became the preeminent supplier of private security for State Dept. installations. Prince resigned from the company soon after it changed its name to Xe, and in 2010 moved to Abu Dhabi.
In November, Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D.-Illinois, claimed that Prince was trying to intimidate her by threatening a defamation suit after she allegedly told a British paper he had moved abroad to avoid criminal consequences for Blackwater's actions.
Wright said that Academi's customers don't want to read about the company in the press, at least "in a negative fashion."
Wright said Academi planned to keep doing "the great job we've done," and stay away from negative press. "So in that sense, we'll be boring," said Wright.