Blackwater, the controversial security contractor that changed its name to Xe (pronounced “zee”) in February 2009, announced today that it’s changing its name yet again: to Academi. Or, as the company’s press release prefers to shout it, ACADEMI.
From that press release:
“We have had a year of extraordinary changes that have resulted in a new, better company,” President and CEO Ted Wright said in a statement. The ACADEMI name communicates both our legacy and where we are going as a company in the future. This is more than a simple name change,” Wright continued. “Rather it is a reflection of the changes we have made while retaining those elements that made us who we are today – the best in our industry.”
One of those “extraordinary changes,” unmentioned in the release, was the departure in 2010 of Blackwater founder Erik Prince. Prince moved on to Abu Dhabi, where he created a mercenary army for the crown prince. Other changes at Blackwater/Xe/Academi include the composition of the board, whose members now include Bush Administration Attorney General John Ashcroft. Ashcroft is serving as the company’s “ethics adviser.”
I’ll let all of that sink in for a minute.
All right! Onward:
As Academi, CEO Wright told the Wall Street Journal, the company will “try to be more boring” (!). He told the Washington Post that Academi, pronounced “academy,” was chosen in part “to evoke the ideas of a Platonic academy, where the ethos is of excellence, honor, and discipline.”
From a naming perspective, the switchout of y for i also evokes the spelling of auto brand Infiniti. This may well have been the effect Academi was going for: classic with a twist. In Academi’s case, however, there are unfortunate overtones of “demi”—as in half. (Or Demi Moore.) The i suffix also suggests a set of girls’ names—Brandi, Sherri, Terri, Tiffani—whose spelling suggests cuteness, perkiness, even giddiness.
Why did Blackwater/Xe change its name again? Wired.com ventures that the new name is meant to communicate that the company has turned over an ethical leaf:
Academi will issue new codes of conduct to its guards and trainers soon, and Wright promises “accountability and openness” over the company’s actions. Translation: no more stealing guns, coked-up warzone parties, or killing civilians.
Not everything is new, however: the company wants back into Iraq. It will be a tough sell, Wired.com reports:
Iraq stripped Blackwater of its business license after [the 2007 massacre in Baghdad’s] Nisour Square. Iraqis are unlikely to give Academi anything like the benefit of the doubt. But with U.S. troops set to leave Iraq at the end of the month, mercs are filling the security gap. There’s a lot of business to be had — if Wright and company can convince either government they deserve it.
And if they can’t, the rebranding exercise may turn out to be academic—as in “having no practical purpose or use.”