Ex-Blackwater firm gets a name change, again

December 12, 2011

Contractors for what was then known as Blackwater engage in a firefight in Najaf, Iraq, in 2004. (Gervasio Sanchez — Associated Press)

On Monday, Xe announced that it was changing its name to Academi, part of a years-long effort by the company to shed a troubled legacy that critics said made the firm a symbol for mercenaries and impunity in Iraq and elsewhere.

In an interview, the company’s president and chief executive, Ted Wright, said the announcement was about more than a simple name change.

“We want to reflect the changes we made in the company,” he said, noting that the firm has new ownership, new leadership and a “refocused strategy on training and security services.”

The company also has unveiled a new Web site and logo. The tag on the Web site reads: “Elite Training. Trusted Protection.”

Xe was acquired by USTC Holdings, an investor consortium, in December 2010, and since then has tried to undergo a corporate makeover. Erik Prince, the former Navy SEAL who built the company, no longer has ties to the business. The firm formed a new board of directors to manage the company and picked up big Washington names in the process.

Former Attorney General John Ashcroft now serves as ethics adviser, and Jack Quinn, a top lobbyist and former counsel to President Bill Clinton, is an independent director.

The company also has a new corporate headquarters, in Arlington, Va. Its main training facility is still in Moyock, N.C.

When Blackwater began calling itself Xe in 2009, a spokesman for the firm said the name had no particular significance. On Monday, Wright said the name change this time had a more deliberate meaning.

Academi, pronounced “academy,” was chosen, he said, in part to evoke the ideas of a Platonic academy, where the ethos is of excellence, honor and discipline.

“That’s what we want our ethos to be in the future — trained thinkers and warriors,” he said

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