The Blackwater Corporation and its activities as a contractor for the United States military have been widely discussed in the media during the latter part of the Iraq conflict. The major principal in the Blackwater Corporation is its founder Erik Prince.
Erik Prince and Blackwater Worldwide, currently known as the XE Corporation, have been intertwined since Blackwater was founded by Prince in 1997. It is not clear at the time of this writing  what the status of Prince’s ties is with the XE organization. In the Fall of 2009 there was a public announcement that Prince was leaving the control of the XE Corporation to others, and he would only be involved with the corporation in a distant relationship. Since then it appears that Prince sold the XE Corporation.
But the story in this biographical profile is about Erik Prince, and only tangentially about the Blackwater Corporation, now known as the XE Corporation. Prince’s life story must be seen from two directions, first as a personal one and secondly as one oriented around his connections with the Blackwater Corporation, and its involvement in the Iraq War.
Viewed from the personal side Erik Prince’s life has been rather tragic. Although he grew up in a wealthy family, and clearly never had to worry about financial problems, he did have to deal with some very serious personal losses. His father, Edgar Prince, passed away at the age of 64, in 1995, from a cardiac condition, when Eric was only 26 years old. Losing a parent at a younger age is always difficult, but in his case it was even more difficult because his grandfather, Peter Prince, had also passed away from a cardiac condition, when he was only 36 years old in 1943, when his father Edgar was only 11 years old. In other words, Eric must have wondered about his own longevity.
In addition to the above sad history Erik had to confront the early death of his first wife Joan, who died at a very young age from breast cancer in 2003. When Joan passed away Erik was left with four young children. Fortunately for him and the four young children he found a willing partner to help him raise his four young toddlers. He married his second wife, Joanne Houck, in 2004. As of 2011, he had three additional children with her.
We will now move on to Prince’s involvement with the Blackwater Corporation, an organization he founded and built up to a major supplier of security forces for use by the United States government in the protection of federal employees, living or visiting Iraq during the years of the Iraq conflict. Erik had served as a seal in the United States Navy, and based on his personal experience as a seal and following the bombing of the USS Cole in the port of Aden, Yemen, he felt that there was a need by the United States Armed Forces to have access to private security forces to aid it in the protection of its personnel and assets. So he decided to found the Blackwater Corporation to provide these types of services.
Following the founding of Blackwater Corporation, Prince was able to obtain a contract to provide security for the United States Department of State in Iraq. The State Department has had a very large involvement in Iraq, and providing protection for the State Department employees was a necessity. Using the United States Armed Forces for such a task just would have been too unwieldy, and too expensive.
Blackwater was only one of many security organizations operating in Iraq under contract with the United States Government. What made Blackwater stand out was its size. It was large, and it provided protection for a very visible group of people, employees of the State Department. In addition, Blackwater had a strong reputation for its ability to provide consistent protection under very dangerous conditions. To do so frequently required aggressive techniques. And what caused problems for Blackwater were the aggressive techniques which were reported by the media. What is not mentioned is the fact that Blackwater had a record of not losing any of the people it was required to protect. In other words the complaints about Blackwater never came from the State Department or its employees it was asked to protect.
The above probably summarizes the Blackwater Corporation and its activities. The company was involved in a highly visible activity, the protection of unarmed individuals in a highly dangerous environment. The company also was large, and virtually all of its revenues came from the United States government, or rather the tax payer. And its work, although successful in protecting unarmed individuals, frequently required tactics that could be criticized. At some point in 2010, its chairman and sole owner, Erik Prince, decided to change its name to the XE Corporation. And in 2011, Prince decided to distance himself by selling the corporation, although it appears that he has not completely cut all ties to the company.
This biographical profile will be concluded with some personal information on Prince. Prince’s father, Edgar Prince, was the founder of Prince Manufacturing, headquartered in Holland, Michigan. The company was a supplier to the automobile industry, and Edgar Prince had been able to build up the company to substantial size. Following his early death in 1995, the estate decided to put the company on the market, and it was sold to Johnson Controls for $1.3 billion dollars. Erik Prince was not the only beneficiary. There was also his mother and three sisters. But Erik was able to use his share of the estate to establish the privately held Blackwater Corporation.
Following his high school education Erik was able to enter the United States Naval Academy. He only remained in the Academy for 18 months, and then left because he felt its rules and requirements were too restrictive and too narrow. He then entered Hillsdale College located in Western Michigan, near his hometown of Holland, Michigan, from where he graduated in 1992. Following graduation he joined the United States Navy via Officer Candidate School. While in the Navy he served in the Navy Seals, and it was his work in the Navy Seals that later gave him the idea for Blackwater. When his father passed away in 1995, Prince was able to get a discharge because he was needed in the management of his father’s corporation. Following the sale of Prince Manufacturing Prince was able to devote full time to the establishment of Blackwater in 1997.
We will conclude the profile with some personal information. Ericks mother remarried following the death of his father. She is now known as Elsa Prince Broekhuizen. One of Prince’s sisters, Betsy, is married to Dick DeVos, a son of one of the founders of the Amway Corporation. Dick DeVos ran as a Republican candidate for the governorship in Michigan, but lost to the Democratic candidate in the 2008 election.
“The Man Behind Blackwater”, Evan Thomas and Mark Hosenball, with Suzanne Smalley, Eve Conant, Babak Deghanpisheh, Pat Wingert, Dan Ephron, Rod Nordland, John Barry, Michael Hirsh, Richard Wolfe, and Thijs Niemantsverdriet, “Newsweek”, October 22, 2007, pp. 36-39.
Eric Prince, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erik_Prince
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