IndustryPrivate security services contractor
Founded1997; 23 years ago (1997)
North Carolina, U.S.
FoundersErik Prince
Al Clark
Headquarters12018 Sunrise Valley Drive
Suite 140
Reston, Virginia
38°56′54″N 77°21′42″W / 38.9484°N 77.3618°W / 38.9484; -77.3618Coordinates: 38°56′54″N 77°21′42″W / 38.9484°N 77.3618°W / 38.9484; -77.3618
Area served
Key people
Craig Nixon and Allen Schaffer
ProductsLaw enforcement training, logistics, close quarter training, and security services
ServicesSecurity management, full-service risk management consulting
ParentConstellis Holdings, Apollo Global Management Edit this on Wikidata

Academi is an American private military company founded in 1997 by former Navy SEAL officer Erik Prince[2][3] as Blackwater,[4] renamed as Xe Services in 2009 and known as Academi since 2011 after the company was acquired by a group of private investors.[5] The company received widespread notoriety in 2007, when a group of its employees killed 14 Iraqi civilians and injured 20 in Nisour Square, Baghdad for which four guards were convicted in a U.S. court.[6][7]

Academi provides security services to the United States federal government on a contractual basis. Since 2003, the group has provided services to the Central Intelligence Agency. In 2013, Academi subsidiary International Development Solutions received an approximately $92 million contract for State Department security guards.[8]

In 2014, Academi became a division of Constellis Group along with Triple Canopy and other security companies that were part of the Constellis Group as the result of an acquisition.[9][10]


1997: Blackwater USA

Blackwater USA was formed in 1997, by Al Clark[11] and Erik Prince in North Carolina, to provide training support to military and law enforcement organizations. In explaining Blackwater's purpose, Prince stated: "We are trying to do for the national security apparatus what FedEx did for the Postal Service".[12] After working with SEAL and SWAT teams, Blackwater USA received its first government contract following the bombing of USS Cole off of the coast of Yemen in October 2000.

1998: Training center opens

Prince purchased approximately 7,000 acres (28 km2) of the Great Dismal Swamp, a vast swamp on the North Carolina–Virginia border that is now mostly a national wildlife refuge, from Dow Jones executive Sean Trotter. "We needed 3,000 acres to make it safe," Prince told reporter Robert Young Pelton.[13] There, he created his private training facility and his contracting company, Blackwater, which he named for the peat-colored water of the swamp.[14]

The Blackwater Lodge and Training Center officially opened on May 15, 1998 and was headed up by Milo. His real name remains anonymous. with a 6,000-acre facility and cost $6.5 million.[13] The training facility comprises several ranges: indoor, outdoor, urban reproductions; an artificial lake; and a driving track in Camden and Currituck counties. The company says it is the largest training facility in the country. The concept was not a financial success and was kept financially solvent by sales from sister company Blackwater Target Systems.[15]

2002–2007: Blackwater Security Company

Jeremy Scahill has claimed that Blackwater Security Company (BSC) was the brainchild of Jamie Smith, a former CIA officer who became Vice President of Blackwater USA and the Founding Director of Blackwater Security Company, holding both positions simultaneously.[16] However, this claim is denied by Prince and Blackwater executive Gary Jackson who describe firing Smith from his position as a low-level administrator for "non-performance" after a 30-day contract. Additionally, Smith has been accused of further embellishing his military and contracting record to defraud investors at SCG International Risk.[17]

2003–2006: First contracts

BSC's first assignment was to provide 20 men with top secret clearance to protect the CIA headquarters and another base that was responsible for hunting Osama bin Laden.[18] Blackwater was one of several private security firms employed following the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. BSC was originally formed as a Delaware LLC and was one of over 60 private security firms employed during the Iraq War to guard officials and installations, train Iraq's new army and police, and provide other support for coalition forces.[19] Smith left Blackwater to start his own firm, SCG International Risk, in 2003. Blackwater was also hired during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina by the United States Department of Homeland Security to protect government facilities, as well as by private clients, including communications, petrochemical, and insurance companies.[why?][20] Overall, the company received over US$1 billion in U.S. government contracts.[21] The company consisted of nine divisions and a subsidiary, Blackwater Vehicles.

Paul Bremer escorted by Blackwater Security guards

In August 2003, Blackwater received its first Iraq contract, a $21 million contract for a Personal Security Detachment and two helicopters for Paul Bremer, head of the U.S. occupation in Iraq.[22]

In July 2004, Blackwater was hired by the U.S. State Department under the Bureau of Diplomatic Security's Worldwide Personal Protective Services (WPPS) umbrella contract, along with DynCorp International and Triple Canopy, Inc. for the purpose of providing protective services in Iraq, Afghanistan, Bosnia, and Israel.[23] The contract applied for two years and expired on June 6, 2006. It authorized 482 personnel, and Blackwater received $488m for its work.[24]

On September 1, 2005, following Hurricane Katrina, Blackwater dispatched a rescue team and helicopter to support relief operations.[25] Blackwater moved about 200 personnel into the area impacted by Hurricane Katrina, most of whom (164 employees) were working under a contract with the Federal Protective Service to protect government facilities,[20] but the company held contracts with private clients as well. Blackwater's presence after Katrina cost the federal government $240,000 per day.[26]

In May 2006, the U.S. State Department awarded WPPS II, the successor to its previous diplomatic security contract.[24] Under this contract, the State Department awarded Blackwater, along with Triple Canopy and DynCorp, a contract for diplomatic security in Iraq. Under this contract, Blackwater was authorized to have 1,020 staff in Iraq.[24] Blackwater's responsibilities included the United States embassy in Iraq.[27] At the time it was a privately held company and published limited information about internal affairs.[28][dead link]


Cofer Black, the company's vice-chairman from 2006 through 2008, was director of the CIA's Counterterrorist Center (CTC) at the time of the September 11 attacks in 2001. He was the United States Department of State coordinator for counterterrorism with the rank of Ambassador-at-Large from December 2002 to November 2004. After leaving public service, Black became chairman of the privately owned intelligence-gathering company Total Intelligence Solutions, Inc., as well as vice-chairman of Blackwater.[29][30]

Robert Richer was vice president of intelligence until January 2007, when he formed Total Intelligence Solutions. He was formerly the head of the CIA's Near East Division.[29][30]

2006–2007: New training centers

In November 2006, Blackwater USA announced that it had acquired an 80-acre (32 ha) facility 120 miles (190 km) west of Chicago in Mount Carroll, Illinois, called Impact Training Center. This facility has been operational since April 2007 and serves law enforcement agencies throughout the Midwest.[citation needed]

Blackwater tried to open an 824-acre (3.33 km2) training facility three miles north of Potrero, a small town in rural east San Diego County, California, located 45 miles (72 km) east of San Diego, for military and law enforcement training.[31][32][33][34] The opening had faced heavy opposition from local residents, residents of nearby San Diego, local Congressmember Bob Filner, and environmentalist and anti-war organizations. Opposition focused on a potential for wildfire increases, the proposed facility's proximity to the Cleveland National Forest, noise pollution, and opposition to the actions of Blackwater in Iraq.[35][36] In response, Brian Bonfiglio, project manager for Blackwater West, said: "There will be no explosives training and no tracer ammunition. Lead bullets don't start fires." In October 2007, when wildfires swept through the area, Blackwater made at least three deliveries of food, water, personal hygiene products and generator fuel to 300 residents near the proposed training site, many of whom had been trapped for days without supplies. They also set up a "tent city" for evacuees.[37] On March 7, 2008, Blackwater withdrew its application to set up a facility in San Diego County.[38]

2007–2009: Blackwater Worldwide

Blackwater logo introduced 2007 (top) and original logo (below)

In October 2007, Blackwater USA began the process of changing its name to Blackwater Worldwide and unveiled a new logo.[39] The change deemphasized the "cross hair" reticle theme, simplifying it slightly.[39]

On July 21, 2008, Blackwater Worldwide stated that it would shift resources away from security contracting because of the extensive risks in that sector. Said company founder and CEO Erik Prince, "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."[40]

2009–2010: Xe Services LLC

Xe logo

In February 2009, Blackwater announced that it would be once again renamed, this time to "Xe Services LLC", as part of a company-wide restructuring plan. Subsequently, it reorganized its business units, added a corporate governance and ethics program, and established an independent committee of outside experts to supervise compliance structures.[41][dubious ]

Prince announced his resignation as CEO on March 2, 2009. He remained as chairman of the board but was no longer involved in day-to-day operations. Joseph Yorio was named as the new president and CEO, replacing Gary Jackson as president and Prince as CEO. Danielle Esposito was named the new chief operating officer and executive vice president.[42][43]

In 2009, Prince announced that he would relinquish involvement in the company's day-to-day business in December, along with some of his ownership rights[which?].[citation needed]

2010–2014: Academi

In 2010, a group of private investors purchased Xe's North Carolina training facility and built Academi, a new company, around it. Academi's Board of Directors included former Attorney General John Ashcroft, former White House Counsel and Vice Presidential Chief of Staff Jack Quinn, retired Admiral and former NSA Director Bobby Ray Inman,[44] and Texas businessman Red McCombs, who served as Chairman of the Board.[45] Quinn and Ashcroft were independent directors, without other affiliations to Academi.[46]

In May 2011, Academi named Ted Wright as CEO.[47] Wright hired Suzanne Rich Folsom as Academi's chief regulatory and compliance officer and deputy general counsel.[48] The Academi Regulatory and Compliance team won National Law Journal's 2012 Corporate Compliance Office of the Year Award.[49]

In 2012, retired Brigadier General Craig Nixon was named the new CEO of Academi.[50]

2014–present: Constellis Holdings

A merger between Triple Canopy and Academi, along with other companies that were part of the Constellis Group package, are now all gathered under the Constellis Holdings, Inc. umbrella.[9] The transaction brings together an array of security companies including Triple Canopy, Constellis Ltd., Strategic Social, Tidewater Global Services, National Strategic Protective Services, ACADEMI Training Center and International Development Solutions.[10]

In 2015 six Colombian mercenaries reported by local media to be employed by Academi were killed in Yemen. The mercenaries were being led by an Australian commander believed to have been hired by the United Arab Emirates to fight the Houthi insurgency.[51]

In 2016, Ali al-Houthi, former President of the Revolutionary Committee, a body formed by Houthi militants, reported that a Tochka missile hit on a Saudi-led command center in Ma'rib resulting in the death of over 120 mercenaries, including 55 Saudi (9 officers), 11 UAE and 11 foreign commanders of Blackwater on January 17 as well as other material losses.[52] Also in 2016, two hundred Sudanese mercenaries from Blackwater and their commander US Colonel Nicolas Petras were killed in Yemen in an attack by Yemeni forces on January 31 with another Tochka missile that impacted a gathering of the Saudi forces at al-Anad military base in Lahij province according to Houthi and Iranian sources.[52]

Board of directors