[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/02/13/art.vert.logo.jpg caption="Companies falling under the Blackwater umbrella are now being called 'Xe.'" width=292 height=320]
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/WORLD/meast/01/29/iraq.blackwater/art.copter.afp.gi.jpg caption="Heavily armed Blackwater guards scan downtown Baghdad, Iraq, from a helicopter in 2003."]
Suzanne Kelly Simons
CNN Executive Producer, Author
Something had to give. Some 17 months after a deadly shooting involving its contractors in Baghdad's Nisoor Square in which at least 14 Iraqis were killed, private security contractor Blackwater is no more. Company President Gary Jackson put rumor to rest by announcing that the companies falling under the Blackwater umbrella are now being called "Xe". (Pronounced "Z").
The former Blackwater Lodge and Training Center has already been renamed on the company's website. It's now called the "U.S. Training Center" but still uses the old Blackwater bear paw log. Similarly, Blackwater Airships is now Guardian Flight Systems, and Blackwater Target Systems will now be called GSD Manufacturing.
While Xe's very generic new black and white logo keeps things simple, one can't help but ask what has really changed ? Former Navy SEAL Erik Prince still has sole ownership of the companies. Gary Jackson remains at the top of the newly-named structure. A new, as of yet unnamed Chief Operating Officer is coming in, and a few of the lower-level executives have been shown the door. Jackson says the moves have been months in the making, but company executives have long been gauging whether the name Blackwater had just become too radioactive. A big answer to just how hot they'd gotten came in late January when the Iraqi government announced that it would not grant the company a license to operate in the country. The State Department – Blackwater's biggest client – said sorry, no license, no contract. The decision not only deprives the company of a lucrative revenue stream, but it will likely force them to lay off as many as 200 people.
To say that the company's founder and owner Erik Prince is down about the news could be an understatement, but if the former SEAL has shown anything over the past decade, it is that he may be down, but don't count him out just yet. Jackson had a similar mindset when I spoke with him recently. The only question now is what's in a name? And would a company by any other name be any less radioactive?
Editor’s Note: Suzanne Simons is author of “Master of war: Blackwater’s Erik Prince and the Global Business of War.” (Collins/Harpercollins June, 2009)
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