WASHINGTON (AP) - Erik Prince, the founder of the beleaguered
Blackwater security company, announced Monday he has stepped aside
as the company's chief executive officer.
Prince said he has appointed a new president and a new CEO. The
management shake up, he said, was part of the company's "continued
reorganization and self-improvement."
Prince founded Blackwater in 1997 and last month the company
changed its name to Xe, pronounced like the letter "z," in an
effort to repair its severely tarnished name and reputation.
The company has had a contract to protect U.S. diplomats in
Iraq, but the State Department announced it would not rehire
Blackwater after its current contract with the company expires in
May. The company has one other major security contract, details of
which are classified.
A report by a House committee in October 2007 called Blackwater
an out-of-control outfit indifferent to Iraqi civilian casualties.
It said that Blackwater had been involved in nearly 200 shooting
incidents since 2005.
In January, five Blackwater security guards pleaded not guilty
to federal manslaughter and gun charges. A federal judge in
Washington on Feb. 17 denied motions to dismiss the case against
the guards, accused in a September 2007 shooting that left 17
Iraqis dead and another 20 wounded in a Baghdad's busy Nisoor
The shooting strained severely strained relations between
Washington and Baghdad and fueled the anti-American insurgency in
Iraq. The Iraqi government labeled the guards "criminals" and
said it would not give the company a license to operate.
The company, headquartered in Moyock, N.C., had been the largest
of the State Department's three private security contractors with
nearly 1,000 employees working in Iraq. Blackwater had more
shooting incidents that the other two companies combined.
Prince started the company with some of his former Navy SEAL