BlackwaterFounder, Prince, Feels Thrown Under Bus

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Associated Press

BlackwaterFounder, Prince, Feels Thrown Under Bus

by
Mike Baker

In a July, 21, 2008 file photo, founder and CEO of Blackwater Worldwide Erik Prince is seen at Blackwater's offices in Moyock, N.C. A spokeswoman for the company, now called Xe, said Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2009, that Erik Prince will relinquish involvement in its day-to-day operations and give up some of his ownership rights. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome, File)

RALEIGH, N.C. — The man who built Blackwater USA into one of the
world's most respected and reviled defense contractors feels that he
was thrown under the bus after serving the nation's security interests
for years.

Erik Prince's company, which renamed itself Xe
Services in February after an uproar over its Iraq operations, has
worked closely for years with the CIA, the State Department and the
U.S. military. But it became the target of a series of federal
investigations and congressional probes, primarily for its Iraq work.
Most recently, officials disclosed that the CIA tapped the company to
work under a program to capture or kill terrorists.

The
40-year-old heir to a Michigan auto parts fortune told Vanity Fair in
an interview released Wednesday that Xe now pays $2 million a month in
legal bills. The company is headquartered in Moyock in northeastern
North Carolina,

"I put myself and my company at the CIA's
disposal for some very risky missions," Prince told Vanity Fair for its
January issue. "But when it became politically expedient to do so,
someone threw me under the bus."

Prince likened his case to the
leak of former CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity — a disclosure
that led to a special prosecutor investigating the matter.

"Well,
what happened to me was worse," Prince said. "People acting for
political reasons disclosed not only the existence of a very sensitive
program but my name along with it."

With his auto parts
inheritance, Prince founded Blackwater in 1997 along with former
colleagues from the Navy SEALs. After the Sept. 11 attacks, the company
quickly developed a presence providing security and later won a
lucrative contract to protect diplomats in Iraq.

A September 2007
shooting in a Baghdad square that led to federal charges against
company contractors triggered outrage in Iraq and the United States and
prompted the eventual State Department decision not to renew
Blackwater's contract protecting diplomats in Iraq. Executives at the
company bemoaned that the work had tarnished the company's image.

"The
experience we've had would certainly be a disincentive to any other
companies that want to step in and put their entire business at risk,"
Prince said in a 2008 interview with The Associated Press.

The
company's work for the U.S. government was lucrative. The Iraq contract
at one point consisted of one-third of company revenues, and executives
have for years been eyeing a goal of $1 billion in annual revenues,
although the privately owned company does not release financial figures.

Prince
announced earlier this year that he would relinquish involvement in the
company's day-to-day business as part of a management shake-up, and
company spokeswoman Stacy DeLuke said Wednesday that Prince also plans
to give up some of his ownership rights. He is considering becoming a
high school teacher.

Joseph Yorio, recently a vice president at
DHL and a former Army special forces officer, is Xe Services new
president. Danielle Esposito, who has worked within Xe for nearly 10
years, is serving as chief operating officer and executive vice
president. The CEO position has not been filled.

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