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Blackwater rebranded ‘Academi’ wants back in Iraq

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Say goodbye to Xe. The company formerly known as Blackwater — the world’s most infamous private security corporation — has jettisoned the name it chose in its 2009 rebrand and adopted the new name of “Academi.”

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The “security solutions provider” wants to wash away the taint of what came to be known as the Blackwater Baghdad shootings. In September 2007 Blackwater personnel opened fire at Nisour Square in Baghdad resulting in the deaths of 17 civilians.

All in all between 2005 and September 2007, Blackwater employees were involved in 195 shooting incidents, most of which saw Blackwater operatives firing first.

The company has also been repeatedly accused of smuggling arms into Iraq.

But the company is changing its name — not its core business. And it even wants back into the country where it ran its brand through the mud: Iraq.

Our focus is on training and security services. We’re continuing that,” new CEO Ted Wright tells Danger Room. “We’re not backing away from security services. The lion’s share of our business today is providing training for security services and [providing] security services.”

A consortium of investors close to the family of founder Erik Prince bought the company in late 2010, and spent 2011 putting together its new leadership team. It brought on board former Attorney General John Ashcroft, Bill Clinton consigliere Jack Quinn and Suzanne Folsom from the insurance giant AIG. Wright came from military-services giant KBR. Notice a pattern? All have deep experience with crisis management.

Notice another pattern: All of those hires either worked in senior government positions or worked closely with those who did. That signals confidence in the company’s traditional business — getting big government contracts to protect diplomats, aid workers and even the military in dangerous places. On its new website, Academi says providing “stability and protection to people and locations experiencing turmoil” is its “core” business. New name, same wheelhouse.

Wright acknowledges that rebranding the world’s most infamous security company might seem like an exercise in cynicism. And so he sets himself a challenge: getting the company back into Iraq.

As we make changes and they take root and we convince everyone they’re real,” Wright says, “then the real proof in the pudding is convincing the government of Iraq and the U.S. government to let us do business in Iraq.”

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