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Erik Prince

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Erik Prince
Erik Prince.jpg
Born
Erik Dean Prince

(1969-06-06) June 6, 1969 (age 49)
EducationUnited States Naval Academy
Hillsdale College (BA)
Known forFounder of Blackwater
Spouse(s)
Joan Prince
(m. 1991; died 2003)

Joanna Houck
(m. 2004; div. 2012)

Stacy DeLuke (m. date unknown)
Children7
RelativesEdgar Prince (father)
Betsy DeVos (sister)
Military career
Allegiance United States
Service/branch United States Navy
RankLieutenant
UnitUnited States Navy SEALs

Erik Dean Prince (born June 6, 1969) is an American businessman and former U.S. Navy SEAL officer best known for founding the government services and security company Blackwater USA, now known as Academi. He served as its CEO until 2009 and later as chairman, until Blackwater Worldwide was sold in 2010 to a group of investors. Prince currently heads the private equity firm Frontier Resource Group and is chairman of Hong Kong-listed Frontier Services Group Ltd. He is the brother of U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.

Early life, education, and military service[edit]

Prince was born on June 6, 1969, in Holland, Michigan, the son of Edgar D. Prince and his wife, Elsa (Zwiep),[note 1] and the youngest of four children.[1] He graduated from Holland Christian High School.[2]

Prince's father had started as a salesman making 40 cents an hour, who founded a die cast machine manufacturing firm, Prince Machine Corporation, in 1965, which became a supplier to the automobile manufacturing industry and eventually a billion-dollar company.[3] As business "exploded" Prince began to invest some of the profit through the Prince Group into other types of car parts and shopping malls, creating a network of companies and real estate worth a billion dollars.[4] In the early 1970s, Edgar Prince's company patented a sun visor that could light up and sold 5,000 to General Motors. In the '90s, the company produced 20,000 a day.[5] Prince and his father toured the world together, visiting the Dachau concentration camp in Germany, a divided Berlin, and Normandy. According to his mother, these trips "made a big impression" on the young Prince.[6]

Prince was accepted into the United States Naval Academy and attended it for three semesters before leaving, citing that he loved the Navy but disliked the Academy. He went on to receive his B.A. in economics from Hillsdale College in 1992.[7] Some sources say Prince dropped out of the Naval Academy,[8][9] while others say he transferred to Hillsdale.[10][11] During his time at Hillsdale, he served as a volunteer firefighter and as a cold-water diver for the Hillsdale County Sheriff's Department.[12] Prince eventually became an emergency medical technician.[13]

In 1990, Prince secured a low-level internship in the White House under George H.W. Bush,[14] but soon left to intern for California congressman Dana Rohrabacher, President Ronald Reagan's former speechwriter. Rohrabacher described Prince as "a bright, driven young man." At the age of 21, Prince volunteered to search for a mass grave in Nicaragua, to expose killings under President Daniel Ortega and later said that he had found one.[15]

After college, Prince was commissioned as an officer in the United States Navy via Officer Candidate School in 1992. He went on to become a Navy SEAL and deployed with SEAL Team 8 to Haiti, the Middle East, and the Balkans. He credits the SEALs for being an outlet for his entrepreneurial spirit. In his autobiography he states that during the Yugoslav Wars in the early 1990s, he realized that there was a need for private training facilities for special operations.[16]

Prince ended his U.S. Navy service prematurely in 1995 when his father died. Erik assumed control of daily operations at Prince Machine Corporation for a year until 1996 when his mother sold the company for $1.35 billion in cash to Johnson Controls.[17][18]

Private career[edit]

Prince moved to Virginia Beach and personally financed the formation of Blackwater Worldwide in 1997.[19] He bought 6,000 acres (24 km2) of the Great Dismal Swamp of North Carolina and set up a school for special operations.[20] The name "Blackwater" comes from the peat-colored bogs in which the school is located.[21]

Prince credits the 1994 Rwandan genocide with his decision to start Blackwater. He later said, "It really bothered me. It made me realize you can't sit back and pontificate. You have to act."[22]

From 1997 to 2010, Blackwater was awarded $2 billion in government security contracts,[23] more than $1.6 billion of which were unclassified federal contracts and an unknown amount of classified work.[24] From 2001 to 2010, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) awarded up to $600 million in classified contracts to Blackwater and its affiliates.[25] It became the largest of the State Department's three private security companies, providing 987 guards for embassies and bases abroad.[26] Prince built a shooting range on his rural Virginia land to serve as a nearby training facility to CIA headquarters in Langley, Va.[23] In his memoir Prince says that he provided the CIA with links to Afghan warlords who helped "topple the Taliban and drive al Qaeda into hiding."[16]

Blackwater came under increasing criticism after the Nisour Square massacre in September 2007, in which Blackwater employees opened fire in a crowded square in Baghdad, killing 17 Iraqi civilians and seriously wounding 20 more. Three guards were convicted in October 2014 of 14 manslaughter charges, and another of murder, in a U.S. court.[27]

The criticism continued after president Barack Obama took office in 2009. Prince said he believes that much of this criticism stems from politics. "I put myself and my company at the CIA's disposal for some very risky missions," Prince told Vanity Fair for its January 2010 issue. "But when it became politically expedient to do so, someone threw me under the bus."[28]

Nevertheless, in 2010 the Barack Obama administration awarded the company a $120 million United States Department of State security contract and about $100 million in new CIA work.[24]

Prince has defended Blackwater's work, pointing to the fact that in 40,000 personal security missions, only 200 involved guards firing their weapons. He has said, "No one under our care was ever killed or injured. We kept them safe, all the while we had 30 of our men killed."[22]

Prince, according to author Robert Young Pelton, reportedly thinks of Blackwater's relationship to the military as something similar to FedEx's relationship to the U.S. Post Office: "an efficient, privatized solution to sclerotic and wasteful government bureaucracy."[29] He credits his father's competitive streak in the automotive business with the inspiration to design a lighter, faster army.[30]

Prince resigned as CEO of Blackwater on March 2, 2009, and remained chairman of the board until he sold the company in late 2010 to a group of investors.[31]

Disclosure as part of a covert CIA task force[edit]

Prince was part of a CIA task force created to kill terrorists. Allegedly, the House intelligence congressional committee leaked his name to the press.[32] Prince has said that he is convinced that former CIA director Leon Panetta outed him as a CIA asset, after shutting down the covert CIA training operation in 2009.[23]

Private security for the United Arab Emirates[edit]

After Blackwater faced mounting legal problems in the United States, Prince was hired by the crown prince of Abu Dhabi and moved to Abu Dhabi in 2010. His task was to assemble an 800-member troop of foreign troops for the U.A.E., which was planned months before the Arab Spring.[33] He helped the UAE found a new company named Reflex Responses, or R2, with 51 percent local ownership, carefully avoiding his name on corporate documents. He worked to oversee the effort and recruit troops, among others from Executive Outcomes, a former South African mercenary firm hired by several African governments during the 1990s to defeat violent rebellions in addition to protecting oil and diamond reserves.

As of January 2011, Prince was training a force of 2,000 Somalis for anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden. The program was funded by several Arab countries, including the United Arab Emirates and backed by the United States. Prince's spokesman, Mark Corallo, said Prince had "no financial role" in the project and declined to answer any questions about Prince's involvement. John Burnett of Maritime Underwater Security Consultants said, "There are 34 nations with naval assets trying to stop piracy and it can only be stopped on land. With Prince's background and rather illustrious reputation, I think it's quite possible that it might work."[34]

Private equity investor in Africa[edit]

Prince currently heads a private equity firm called Frontier Resource Group and is chairman of Frontier Services Group Ltd, a Bermuda-incorporated logistics and transport company listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.[35] Frontier Services Group is backed by China's state-owned CITIC Group and Hong Kong-based investor Chun Shun Ko.[36][37] Prince's ventures advise and support Chinese investment in oil and gas in Africa.[38]

In May 2014, it was reported that Prince's plan to build a diesel refinery in South Sudan, in which $10 million had already been invested, was suspended. The halted refinery project was reported to be supported personally by the country's president, Salva Kiir Mayardit.[35] Frontier Services Group was reported to be paid $23.3 million by South Sudan's Ministry of Petroleum to transport supplies and perform maintenance on oil production facilities.[39]

As part of Prince's Africa-focused investment strategy, Frontier Services Group purchased stakes in two Kenyan aviation companies, Kijipwa Aviation and Phoenix Aviation, to provide logistics services for the country's oil and gas industry.[35] In October 2014, the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority denied Kijipwa Aviation an aviation license renewal.[40][41][42]

Prince also purchased a 25% stake in Austrian aviation company Airborne Technologies. In 2014, Prince commissioned the company to modify Thrush 510G crop-dusters with surveillance equipment, machine guns, armor, and other weapons, including custom pylons that could mount either NATO or Russian ballistics.[43] One of the modified crop-dusters was delivered to Salva Kiir Mayardit's forces in South Sudan shortly before a contract with Frontier Services Group was cancelled. Frontier Services Group owns two of the modified Thrush 510Gs, but since executives learned the craft had been weaponized by Prince, the company has declined to sell or use the aircraft to avoid violating U.S. export controls.[44]

Ties to Trump transition[edit]

In 2016 Prince supported Republican candidate Donald Trump for President of the United States. Prince had no formal role in Trump's transition. In December 2016 Prince visited the transition team offices in New York City. In April 2017 as part of a broader investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections the Federal Bureau of Investigation is investigating a January 11, 2017 meeting in the Seychelles at which Prince presented himself as Trump's unofficial representative.[45]

In August 2016, Donald Trump Jr. had a meeting with envoy representing the crown princes of the United Arab Emirates and Saudi ArabiaMohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan of Abu Dhabi and Mohammad bin Salman – who offered help to the Trump presidential campaign.[46] The meeting included Prince and Joel Zamel, an Israeli specialist in social media manipulation.[47][46]

Personal life[edit]

Prince lives in both Middleburg, Virginia[48] and Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.[45][49] He converted to Catholicism in 1992[50] and describes himself as a practicing member of the church.[28]

Political views[edit]

Prince describes himself as a libertarian.[28] He has said, "I'm a very free market guy. I'm not a huge believer that government provides a whole lot of solutions. Some think that government can solve society's problems. I tend to think private charities and private organizations are better solutions."[51]

Prince credits his time as a White House intern with some of his political views. He said that "having that White House internship responsibility and badges, I walked around some of these other cavernous federal agencies, and you want to talk about depressing? Walk through HHS or HUD or Commerce, you name it. Leviathan realized."[51] Speaking of his internship, Prince said, "I saw a lot of things I didn't agree with--homosexual groups being invited in, the budget agreement, the Clean Air Act." Disenchanted, Prince became a backer of presidential candidate Pat Buchanan.[52]

Prince has advocated for a leaner, more efficient military. He suggests several ways to make the military more efficient without compromising security. His suggestions include: greater accountability of costs, using appropriate equipment for each job, reduction of overhead, and operational and procurement reform.[53]

Contributions to political and charitable causes[edit]

Between 1998 and 2007, Prince donated more than $200,000 to Republican and third-party causes.[54][55] In 2006, Prince contributed money to the Green Party of Luzerne County, Pennsylvania as part of a failed effort to help Republican Rick Santorum defeat Democrat Bob Casey.[55] He has also donated to the Family Research Council,[56] a beneficiary of the Prince and DeVos families since the 1980s.[57][55]

In 2016 Prince contributed $250,000 to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, and $100,000 to Make America Number 1, a Trump-aligned super PAC helmed by Rebekah Mercer.[45][58]

Prince serves as vice president of the Prince Foundation, which his family founded.[58] In the 1990s Prince founded the Freiheit ("Liberty") Foundation, a nonprofit charity which funded a number of conservative causes.[56] Prince has often donated to organizations which promote Christian causes, including the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty and the Prison Fellowship, and politically conservative groups such as the Council for National Policy, of which his father was vice president at the time of his death.[56] Prince supported a Muslim orphanage in Afghanistan and built mosques at Blackwater bases.[28]

Family[edit]

Prince is the younger brother of United States Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos,[59][60] and the brother-in-law of former Alticor (Amway) president Dick DeVos.[61]

Prince's first wife, Joan Nicole,[62][63] died of cancer in 2003 at age 36.[64] She introduced Prince to Catholicism.[62] They had four children.[65] He later wrote that he had an affair with Joanna Ruth Houck, his children's nanny, while his wife was dying.[66] Prince and Houck married in 2004.[67] He is now married to Stacy DeLuke,[68] a former Blackwater spokeswoman.[69]

Prince has seven children. His youngest child, Charles Donovan Prince, was named after William "Wild Bill" Donovan.[64]

Further reading[edit]

  • Pelton, Robert Young (2006). Licensed to Kill: Hired Guns in the War on Terror. New York: Three Rivers Press. ISBN 1400097819.
  • Simons, Suzanne (2009). Master of War: Blackwater USA's Erik Prince and the Business of War. New York City: Harper. ISBN 978-0-06-165135-9.
  • Pelton, Robert Young (November 2010). An American Commando In Exile. Men's Journal. – Prince spends his last two days in America with Pelton.
  • Scahill, Jeremy (2007). Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army. ISBN 978-1-56025-979-4.
  • Prince, Erik (June 1, 2008). Inside Blackwater: The True Story of the World's Most Controversial Company by the Man Who Founded It. Regnery Publishing. ISBN 1596985577. Hardcover, 256 pages.
  • Prince, Erik (November 2013). Civilian Warriors: The Inside Story of Blackwater and the Unsung Heroes of the War on Terror. Portfolio/Penguin. ISBN 978-1591847212.Hardcover, 416 pages.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ At the time of their marriage, she was known by her maiden name, Elsa Zwiep. Following her marriage to Prince, she was known as Elsa Prince. After Prince's death in 1995 she married, in 2000, a minister, Ren Broekhuizen, and was known as Elsa Prince-Broekhuizen.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Jim Schaefer, M.L. Elrick and Todd Spangler (October 7, 2007). "Ready for battle". The Detroit Free Press.
  2. ^ "Profile: Blackwater's Restless Erik Prince". Newsweek. Retrieved 2017-02-01.
  3. ^ http://www.newnetherlandinstitute.org/history-and-heritage/dutch_americans/edgar-d-prince/ accessed 11-20-13
  4. ^ Pelton 2006, p. 291
  5. ^ Simons, Suzanne (2009). Master of War. Harper Collins. p. 10.
  6. ^ Simons 2009, pp. 11–2
  7. ^ "Erik Prince exclusive interview".[dead link][dead link]
  8. ^ Flintoff, Corey (September 25, 2007). "Blackwater's Prince Has GOP, Christian Group Ties". NPR.
  9. ^ Wisely, John (April 8, 2017). "Betsy DeVos' brother, Blackwater founder Erik Prince, sparks headlines". Detroit Free Press.
  10. ^ Risen, James (October 8, 2007). "Blackwater Chief at Nexus of Military and Business". The New York Times.
  11. ^ Thomas, Evan (October 31, 2017). "Profile: Blackwater's Erik Prince". Newsweek.
  12. ^ [1]
  13. ^ Simons 2009, p. 19
  14. ^ White-Collar Mercenary Under Fire by Marc Pitzke, Der Spiegel, October 3, 2007,
  15. ^ Pelton, Robert Young. "An American Commando in Exile". Men's Journal. Men's Journal. Archived from the original on September 3, 2012. Retrieved June 3, 2011.
  16. ^ a b Civilian Warriors: The Inside Story of Blackwater and the Unsung Heroes of the War on Terror Hardcover by Erik Prince.Portfolio Hardcover (November 18, 2013) ISBN 978-1591847212
  17. ^ Robert Young Pelton (November 30, 2010). "An American Commando in Exile". Men's Journal. Archived from the original on June 14, 2011. Retrieved May 28, 2011.
  18. ^ Pelton 2006, p. 291
  19. ^ The Virginian-Pilot, Hampton Roads, "Blackwater's top brass" Archived August 29, 2007, at the Wayback Machine. July 24, 2006.
  20. ^ "The Man Behind Blackwater". Newsweek, October 23, 2007, pp. 36–9.
  21. ^ Simons 2009
  22. ^ a b Photos by Mark Copier (May 5, 2010). "Protests outside, cheers inside as Blackwater founder Erik Prince speaks in Holland". MLive.com. Retrieved August 25, 2013.
  23. ^ a b c Blackwater founder works on next chapter.By Dion Nissenbaum. The Wall Street Journal, page B4, Nov 18, 2013.
  24. ^ a b Strobel, Warren P. (June 28, 2010). "Obama spares Blackwater on Sudan violations". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
  25. ^ "Prince's business covertly won U.S.contracts" (PDF). Grand Rapids Gazette. April 9, 2010. Archived from the original (PDF) on 3 March 2016.
  26. ^ Sengupta, Kim (June 9, 2010). "Blackwater founder to sell up as criticism takes its toll". The Independent. London.
  27. ^ U.S. Jury convicts Blackwater guards in 2007 killings of Iraqi civilians, The Guardian. October 22, 2014. Retrieved October 23, 2014.
  28. ^ a b c d Ciralsky, Adam. "January 2010: Adam Ciralsky on Blackwater". Vanity Fair. Retrieved August 25, 2013.
  29. ^ Pelton 2006, p. 2
  30. ^ Pelton 2006, p. 3
  31. ^ "Blackwater Founder in Deal to Sell Company". The New York Times. December 16, 2010.
  32. ^ Ciralsky, Adam. "January 2010: Adam Ciralsky on Blackwater". Vanity Fair. Retrieved August 25, 2013.
  33. ^ Mazzetti, Mark; Hager, Emily B. (May 14, 2011). "Secret Desert Force Set Up by Blackwater's Founder. Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater, has a new project". The New York Times. Retrieved November 18, 2013.
  34. ^ Associated Press (January 24, 2011). "Blackwater founder trains Somalis". Archived from the original on January 24, 2011.
  35. ^ a b c Gridneff, Ilya (May 28, 2014). "South Sudan Chaos Halts Prince's Plan for Oil Refinery". Bloomberg News. Archived from the original on August 17, 2014. Retrieved November 10, 2014.
  36. ^ Ng, Eric (January 14, 2014). "DVN shares surge as former Blackwater owner named chairman". South China Morning Post. Archived from the original on August 5, 2014. Retrieved November 10, 2014.
  37. ^ Eisenhammer, Stephen (February 2, 2014). "Beyond Blackwater: Prince looks to resources in Africa". Reuters. Archived from the original on November 10, 2014. Retrieved November 10, 2014.
  38. ^ "Blackwater Founder Prince Now Working With China". Bloomberg Television. January 31, 2014. Retrieved November 10, 2014.
  39. ^ Gridneff, Ilya (December 18, 2014). "South Sudan Hires Ex-Blackwater Chief to Restore War-Damaged Oil Facilities". Bloomberg News. Archived from the original on December 18, 2014. Retrieved January 11, 2015.
  40. ^ Herbling, David (October 27, 2014). "State denies American company aviation licence". Business Daily Africa. Archived from the original on October 28, 2014. Retrieved December 6, 2014.
  41. ^ Lamothe, Dan (October 28, 2014). "Blackwater founder Erik Prince: Combative, secretive and expanding in Africa". The Washington Post. Retrieved November 10, 2014.
  42. ^ "Kenya refuses to renew Blackwater founder's Kijipwa Aviation ASL". ch-aviation. November 6, 2014. Archived from the original on November 7, 2014. Retrieved November 10, 2014.
  43. ^ Cole, Matthew (April 12, 2016). "Report: Blackwater CEO Tried to Sell Armed Planes to South Sudan". The Takeaway. WNYC. Retrieved 27 January 2017.
  44. ^ Scahill, Jeremy; Cole, Matthew. "Echo Papa Exposed: Inside Erik Prince's Treacherous Drive to Build a Private Air Force". The Intercept. Retrieved 27 January 2017.
  45. ^ a b c Entous, Adam; Miller, Greg; Sieff, Kevin; DeYoung, Karen (April 3, 2017). "Blackwater founder held secret Seychelles meeting to establish Trump-Putin back channel". The Washington Post. Retrieved April 4, 2017.
  46. ^ a b "Trump Jr. and Other Aides Met With Gulf Emissary Offering Help to Win Election". The New York Times. 19 May 2018.
  47. ^ "Trump Jr. met Gulf princes' emissary in 2016 who offered campaign help". Reuters. 19 May 2018.
  48. ^ Shapira, Ian (January 1, 2015). "Blackwater founder Erik Prince goes to war against a former business partner". The Washington Post.
  49. ^ Risen, James (August 17, 2010). "Blackwater's Erik Prince Moves to Abu Dhabi". The New York Times.
  50. ^ Thomas, Evan (October 13, 2007). "Profile: Blackwater's Erik Prince". Newsweek.
  51. ^ a b Simons, 20
  52. ^ Scahill, Jeremy (2011-05-26). Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army. Profile Books. ISBN 1847654789.
  53. ^ Beck, Glenn (2010). Broke: The Plan to Restore Our Trust, Truth and Treasure. New York, NY: Mercury Radio Arts, Inc. p. 405. ISBN 978-1-4391-8719-7.
  54. ^ Mike Barker, AP, "Testimony Lifts Veil on Blackwater Boss", October 2, 2007.
  55. ^ a b c Malcolm, Andrew (October 4, 2007). "Grilled Blackwater chairman a major GOP donor". The Baltimore Sun. Archived from the original on October 11, 2007.
  56. ^ a b c Scahill, Jeremy (2007). Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army. Nation Books. pp. 79–83. ISBN 978 1 84668 652 8.
  57. ^ "History of Family Research Council: Rolling Up the Sleeves". Family Research Council. Retrieved November 7, 2017.
  58. ^ a b Woodruff, Betsy (October 22, 2016). "Blackwater Founder Erik Prince, Who Got Rich Off Of Iraq, Now Backs 'Anti-War' Donald Trump". The Daily Beast.
  59. ^ Huetteman, Emmarie; Alcindor, Yamiche (February 7, 2017). "Betsy DeVos Confirmed as Education Secretary; Pence Breaks Tie" – via NYTimes.com.
  60. ^ Axe, David (February 13, 2017). "'Blackwater Air' Is Back, and Flying for U.S. Special Forces". The Daily Beast. Retrieved November 7, 2017.
  61. ^ The Virginian-Pilot, Hampton Roads, "Blackwater's top brass", July 24, 2006. Retrieved from the Internet Archive March 27, 2016.
  62. ^ a b Erik Prince, Civilian Warriors, the Inside Story of Blackwater and the Unsung Heroes of the War on Terror (2013).
  63. ^ "Blackwater, behind the brass". POLITICO. Retrieved 2017-02-01.
  64. ^ a b Ciralsky, Adam (January 2010). "Scandal: Tycoon, Contractor, Soldier, Spy". Vanity Fair. Condé Nast. Retrieved April 30, 2013.
  65. ^ Flintoff, Corey (September 25, 2007). "Blackwater's Prince Has GOP, Christian Group Ties". npr.org. Retrieved November 7, 2017.
  66. ^ Sizemore, Bill (November 18, 2013). "Blackwater founder takes aim at his critics in memoir". The Virginian-Pilot. Retrieved December 22, 2015.
  67. ^ Dimascio, Jen (July 20, 2009). "Blackwater, behind the brass". Politico. Retrieved December 22, 2015.
  68. ^ Scahill, Jeremy (January 17, 2017). "Notorious Mercenary Erik Prince Is Advising Trump from the Shadows". The Intercept. Retrieved November 7, 2017.
  69. ^ Baker, Mike (December 2, 2009). "Blackwater founder cutting ties with company". The San Diego Union-Tribune. Retrieved November 7, 2017.

External links[edit]