x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Thinkers as well as fighters: Blackwater changes name for second time to Academi

The security firm once known as Blackwater changed its name for the second time in less than three years as its owners continue to reshape the company they bought from its founder a year ago.

MCLEAN, UNITED STATES // The security firm once known as Blackwater changed its name for the second time in less than three years as its owners continue to reshape the company they bought from its founder a year ago.

The Arlington, Virginia-based company announced it will no longer be known as Xe Services and is now called Academi. The name is inspired by Plato's Academy in ancient Greece and is designed to connote elite, highly disciplined warriors who are thinkers as well as fighters.

Ted Wright, the chief executive officer, said on Monday a new name was needed to reflect changes the company has undergone since a group of investors bought it in December 2010 from founder Erik Prince, who is based in Abu Dhabi.

"Simply stated, we are a new company. New ownership team. New board of directors," Mr Wright said.

Mr Prince founded the company in 1997 in North Carolina and built it into a contractor that provided training and protection for US government workers in war zones around the globe. But Blackwater guards were involved in a series of high-profile shootings, none more so than the 2007 shootings in Nisoor Square in Baghdad that left 17 Iraqis dead. Iraq has since banned the company from working in the country. And four Blackwater guards still face federal prosecution for their actions.

Mr Prince, though, offered aggressive defences of his company's work and became a target for critics who said he fostered a trigger-happy culture. In 2009, the company acknowledged the Blackwater name had become tarnished and changed its name to Xe.

Asked about the name changes, Mr Wright pointed out that the first name change occurred under the old ownership group, and he admitted he was not a fan of the Xe name.

"I think it was confusing," Wright said of the Xe name. "It didn't have any reason behind it."