Erik Prince :: Founder and Owner of Xe (BlackWater)

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Erik D. Prince (born June 6 1969, Holland, Michigan) is founder and sole owner of the private military company Xe, formerly Blackwater Worldwide. Testifying before the United States House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform on October 2, 2007, he gave his title as chairman and CEO of the Prince Group and princeBlackwater Worldwide, then named Blackwater USA. On March 2, 2009, Prince announced that he was stepping down as CEO of Xe (BlackWater.)

Erik Prince was born into a wealthy family, the youngest child of Edgar D. Prince, founder of the Prince Corporation (an automobile-parts company that introduced lighted vanity mirrors for cars), and Elsa Broekhuizen. He has three older sisters. Prince’s mother is of Dutch heritage.

Prince earned an airplane pilot’s license at age 17 and graduated from Holland Christian High School. He attended the United States Naval Academy after high school, but left the academy after three semesters, and ultimately graduated from Hillsdale College in 1992. During his time at Hillsdale, Prince served as a volunteer firefighter and as a diver for the Hillsdale County Sheriff’s Department.

He was an intern in the White House under President George H. W. Bush and subsequently criticized that administration’s policies to theGrand Rapids Press, saying: “I saw a lot of things I didn’t agree with—homosexual groups being invited in, the budget agreement, the Clean Air Act, those kinds of bills.”[5] He also served as an intern to California Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher. While at Hillsdale, Prince campaigned for presidential candidate Pat Buchanan, and interned at his father’s co-founded Gary Bauer’s Family Research Council.

After college, he earned a commission in the United States Navy after joining in 1992 via Officer Candidate School. He served as a Navy SEAL officer on deployments to Haiti, the Middle East, and the Mediterranean, including Bosnia. When his father, Edgar, unexpectedly died in 1995, Prince ended his Navy service prematurely. Prince’s mother, Elsa, sold the Prince Corporation for $1.3 billion to Johnson Controls, Inc. Prince moved to Virginia Beach and personally financed the formation of Blackwater Worldwide in 1997. He bought 6,000 acres (24 km2) of theGreat Dismal Swamp of North Carolina and set up a school for special operations operators. The name “Blackwater” comes from the peat-colored bogs in which the school is located.

Prince serves as vice president of the Edgar and Elsa Prince Foundation. Salon reports that “between July 2003 and July 2006, the foundation gave at least $670,000 to the Family Research Council, which his family founded, and $531,000 to Focus on the Family” headed by James Dobson. The foundation is also a major donor to Calvin College, a Christian institution in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Prince also serves as a board member of Christian Freedom International, a non-profit group with a mission of helping “Christians who are persecuted for their faith in Jesus Christ.”

Since 1998, Prince has personally donated over $200, 000 to Republican causes. Prince is a donor, along with others to the Alliance Defense Fund, a conservative Christian legal group. Prince had also contributed money to the Green Party of Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, though this has been interpreted as an unsuccessful attempt to help Republican candidate Rick Santorum in his race against Democratic challenger Bob Casey.

Former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards has characterized Prince as one of George W. Bush’s “political cronies. Prince has denied using family clout to obtain contracts for Blackwater.

Prince’s company, Blackwater Worldwide, was involved in several international controversies during 2007, leading to his being asked to testify before the United States Congress. Seventeen Iraqi civilians were killed when a Blackwater private security detail (PSD) escorted a convoy of US State Department vehicles en route to a meeting in western Baghdad with United States Agency for xeLogoInternational Development officials on September 16, 2007. On September 22, 2007, Federal prosecutors announced an investigation into whether Blackwater employees illegally smuggled weapons into Iraq that were later possibly transferred to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), a Kurdish nationalist group designated a terrorist organization by the US,North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the European Union.

On October 2, 2007 Prince was subject to a congressional hearing conducted by the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform following the controversy related to Blackwater’s conduct in Iraq and Afghanistan. Public relations powerhouse Burson-Marsteller was brought in briefly, but at a critical moment, to help Prince, prepare for the Oct 2 hearing.

  • When testifying before Congress on October 2, 2007, about Blackwater Worldwide’s activities in Iraq, Prince complained about the lack of remedies his company has to deal with employee misdeeds. When asked why an employee involved in a fatal incident had been “whisked out of the country” he replied, “We can’t flog him, we can’t incarcerate him.”
  • When asked by a member of Congress for financial information about his company, he declined to provide it. “We’re a private company, and there’s a key word there — private,” Prince answered. Later he stated that the company could provide it at a future date if questions were submitted in writing.
  • When the term “mercenaries” was used to describe Blackwater employees, Prince objected, characterizing them instead as “loyal Americans,” notwithstanding the fact that Blackwater employees comprise many nationalities.

On August 3, 2009, two anonymous former Blackwater employees swore under oath that Prince may have murdered or facilitated the murder of individuals who were cooperating with federal authorities investigating the company. In addition, they said that Prince “views himself as a Christian crusader tasked with eliminating Muslims and the Islamic faith from the globe,” and that Prince’s companies “encouraged and rewarded the destruction of Iraqi life.” The allegations surfaced in pre-trial motions in a Eastern District of Virginia civil lawsuit brought on behalf of Iraqi civilians by Susan Burke, a private attorney working in conjunction with the Center for Constitutional Rights.Blackwater Chief Executive Officer Erik Prince defends his company’s performance in Iraq before the House oversight committee in 2007

Prince announced his resignation as CEO of Blackwater (now called Xe) on March 2, 2009. Prince will remain as chairman of the board but will no longer be involved in day-to-day operations. Joseph Yorio was named as the new president, replacing Gary Jackson, who took Prince’s place as CEO. Danielle Esposito was named the new chief operating officer and executive vice president.

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