BLACKWATER REBRANDS ITSELF AS “ACADEMI”
An infamous company is attempting a complete brand makeover — again.
The private security firm formerly known as Blackwater and most recently known as Xe has decided to change its name to Academi, according to The Washington Post.
Blackwater changed its name to Xe in 2009, ostensibly to distance itself from its dark past — five of its employees were indicted for charges related to a 2007 shooting in Iraq that killed 17 unarmed Iraqi civilians, according to Time.
Apparently the first switch didn’t help the firm’s image problem; the State Department opted not to renew its contract with the firm in May 2009, also according to Time.
Still, Ted Wright, the company’s CEO insists that the latest name change isn’t simply a PR move. Instead, Wright told WaPo it indicates a shift in the firm’s ownership and leadership.
“We want to reflect the changes we made in the company,” Wright told WaPo.
The company was sold in 2010 and brought on a host of new leaders in 2011, including former Attorney General John Ashcroft and Suzanne Wolstrom, the former regulatory compliance officer at another disgraced company, AIG. As Wired notes, the new team features people who have experience in crisis management.
And while Wright says he hopes Academi will be more “boring” than in the past, the Wall Street Journal reports he would also like to see the company return to Iraq, where demand for security contractors remains high.
At the time of its first name change, spokeswoman Anne Tyrrell then admitted that the Iraq controversies had played some role in the decision to changes names. “It’s not a direct result of a loss of contract [in Iraq], but certainly that is an aspect of our work that we feel we were defined by,” she then said, according to the Guardian.
But Blackwater/Xe/Academi isn’t the first company to change its name in an effort to distance itself from past troubles. The tobacco giant formerly known as Philip Morris changed its name to the Altria Group in 2003 on the same day it was cleared of responsibility in a smoking-related death, according to Time. In 1997, ValuJet changed its name to AirTran about a year after a Florida crash on the carrier left 110 people dead.