Erik Prince

Infobox Person
name = Erik D. Prince

image_size = 180px
caption = Erik D. Prince
birth_name =
birth_date = birth date and age|1969|6|6
birth_place = Holland, Michigan
death_date =
death_place =
death_cause =
resting_place =
resting_place_coordinates =
residence = McLean, Virginia, USA
nationality = American of Dutch heritage.
other_names =
known_for = founder of Blackwater Worldwide
education = graduate of Hillsdale College
employer =
occupation = private military company executive
title = chairman and CEO of the Prince Group and Blackwater Worldwide
salary =
networth =
height =
weight =
term =
predecessor =
successor =
party = Republican
boards = Christian Freedom International
religion = Christian; a convert to the Roman Catholic Church, raised in the Calvinist Dutch Reformed Church [ [ The Man Behind Blackwater: Dutiful and intense, son of a self-made billionaire, Erik Prince is an adventure-seeker and conservative true-believer. An exclusive.] by Evan Thomas and Mark Hosenball, Newsweek, Oct. 22, 2007]
spouse = Joan Nicole Prince (deceased); Joanna Ruth Prince, neé Houck
partner =
children = 6; 4 from his first marriage and 2 from his second
parents = Edgar D. Prince and Elsa Broekhuizen Prince
relatives = Betsy DeVos (sister)

website =
footnotes =

Erik D. Prince (b. June 6 1969, Holland, Michigan) is the founder and sole owner of the private military company Blackwater Worldwide."Licensed to Kill: Hired Guns in the War on Terror" by Robert Young Pelton, Crown, 2006, p. 1] Testifying before the United States House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform on October 2, 2007, he gave his title as chairman and CEO of the Prince Group and Blackwater Worldwide, then named Blackwater USA. [ [ Testimony of Erik D. Prince, Chairman and CEO, Blackwater For The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, October 2, 2007] .]

Early life and career

Erik Prince was born into a wealthy family, the youngest child of Edgar D. Prince, founder of the Prince Corporation (an automobile-parts company that introduced lighted vanity mirrors for cars), and Elsa Prince; he has three older sisters. [ [ Ready for battle] by Jim Schaefer, M.L. Elrick and Todd Spangler, The Detroit Free Press, October 7, 2007.] Erik Prince is of Dutch heritage.

Prince earned an airplane pilot's license at age 17 and graduated from Holland Christian High School.NNDB, Erik Prince, [ "Erik Prince"] ] He attended the United States Naval Academy after high school,The Virginian-Pilot, Hampton Roads, [ "Q&A: Blackwater's founder on the record"] , July 24, 2006.] but left the academy after three semesters, and ultimately graduated from Hillsdale College in 1992. During his time at Hillsdale, Prince served as a volunteer firefighter and as a diver for the Hillsdale County Sheriff's Department. []

He was an intern in the White House under President George H. W. Bush [ [,1518,509264,00.html White-Collar Mercenary Under Fire] by Marc Pitzke, Der Spiegel, October 3, 2007,] and subsequently criticized that administration's policies to the "Grand Rapids Press", saying: "I saw a lot of things I didn't agree with—homosexual groups being invited in, the budget agreement, the Clean Air Act, those kinds of bills." [ [ Ready for battle] by Jim Schaefer, M.L. Elrick and Todd Spangler, The Detroit Free Press, October 7, 2007.] He also served as an intern to California Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher. While at Hillsdale, Prince campaigned for presidential candidate Pat Buchanan, and interned at Gary Bauer's Family Research Council. [ Ready for battle] by Jim Schaefer, M.L. Elrick and Todd Spangler, The Detroit Free Press, October 7, 2007.]

After college, he earned a commission in the United States Navy after joining in 1992 via Officer Candidate School. He served as a Navy SEAL officer on deployments to Haiti, the Middle East, and the Mediterranean, including Bosnia. When his father, Edgar, unexpectedly died in 1995, Prince ended his Navy service prematurely. Prince's mother, Elsa, sold the Prince Corporation for $1.3 billion to Johnson Controls, Inc. Prince moved to Virginia Beach and personally financed the formation of Blackwater Worldwide in 1997.The Virginian-Pilot, Hampton Roads, [ "Q&A: Blackwater's founder on the record"] , July 24, 2006.] The Virginian-Pilot, Hampton Roads, [ "Blackwater's top brass"] , July 24, 2006.] He bought convert|6000|acre|km2 of the Great Dismal Swamp of North Carolina and set up a school for special operations operators. ["The Man Behind Blackwater." "Newsweek," October 23, 2007, pp. 36–39.] The name "Blackwater" comes from the peat-colored bogs in which the school is located.


Prince's father co-founded the Family Research Council with Gary Bauer. [ [ In the Black(water)] , Jeremy Scahill, The Nation, May 22, 2006.] Prince is the brother of Betsy DeVos, a former chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party and wife of former Alticor (Amway) president and Gubernatorial candidate Dick DeVosThe Virginian-Pilot, Hampton Roads, [ "Blackwater's top brass"] , July 24, 2006] , son of Richard DeVos, Sr. (listed by "Forbes" in 2007 as one of the world's richest men, with a net worth of $2.4 billion). [ [ Richard DeVos] , Forbes, 2004.]

Prince's first wife, Joan Nicole Prince, died of cancer in 2003, and he has since remarried. He has six children. [ [,1,3362249.story?coll=la-news-a_section Erik Prince Chairman, Blackwater USA] , LA Times, October 3, 2007.]

Philanthropy and political donations

Prince serves as vice president of the Edgar and Elsa Prince Foundation. "Salon" reports that "between July 2003 and July 2006, the foundation gave at least $670,000 to the Family Research Council and $531,000 to Focus on the Family" [ The Bush administration's ties to Blackwater] , by Ben Van Heuvelen, Salon, October 2, 2007.] headed by James Dobson. The foundation is also a major donor to Calvin College [ [ Calvin College ] ] , a Christian institution in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Prince also serves as a board member of Christian Freedom International, a non-profit group with a mission of helping "Christians who are persecuted for their faith in Jesus Christ."

Since 1998, Prince has personally donated over $200,000 to Republican causes.Mike Barker, AP, [ "Testimony Lifts Veil on Blackwater Boss"] , October 2, 2007.] [ [ Blackwater's Prince Has GOP, Christian Group Ties] , NPR, Corey Flintoff, September 25, 2007.] [ [ Grilled Blackwater chairman a major GOP donor] by Andrew Malcolm, The Baltimore Sun, October 4, 2007. Puts the figure of Prince's Republican donations at $230,000.] Prince is a donor, along with beverage company Bolthouse Farms through the Bolthouse foundation, to the Alliance Defense Fund, a conservative Christian legal group. Posner, Sarah. " [ The Legal Muscle Leading the Fight to End the Separation of Church and State] " April 1, 2007, Washington Spectator Online] Prince had also contributed money to the Green Party of Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, though this has been interpreted as an unsuccessful attempt to help Republican candidate Rick Santorum in his race against Democratic challenger Bob Casey. [ [ Grilled Blackwater chairman a major GOP donor] by Andrew Malcolm, The Baltimore Sun, October 4, 2007]

Former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards has characterized Prince as one of George W. Bush's "political cronies." [ [ Edwards: Limit Private Security Firms] by Philip Elliott, the Associated Press, October 2, 2007.] Prince has denied using family clout to obtain contracts for Blackwater. [ [ Security boss Erik Prince: I didn't use DeVos clout for Iraq job] by Todd Spangler, Free Press, October 3, 2007]

Relations with the media

Confidentiality agreements prohibit former Blackwater executives from talking about Prince. [ [ Founder of N.C. security company from prominent GOP family] , the Associated Press, May 3, 2004.] He has been described by the press as "reclusive" [ [ Blackwater: Inside America's private army] by Joanne Kimberlin and Bill Sizemore, Landmark News Service, August 3, 2006] and "secretive". [ [,,2182296,00.html Iraq security firm denies trigger-happy charge] by Ewen MacAskill, The Guardian, October 2, 2007] Prince is noted for disliking having his photo taken and distributed; often using his hands to shield himself from photographers. While attending a technology conference in North Carolina, he was visibly uncomfortable when photographed on stage and officials asked that the images not be published.Mike Barker, AP, [ "Testimony Lifts Veil on Blackwater Boss"] , October 2, 2007.] He also frequently turns down interview requests.Robert Young Pelton.]

According to the head of a competing contractor, "Realistically, there's ongoing projects by (terrorist groups) to collect data on private contractors. I appreciate and understand his efforts to protect his family. The guy needs his privacy."Mike Barker, AP, [ "Testimony Lifts Veil on Blackwater Boss"] , October 2, 2007.]

However, in response to controversy surrounding the September 16, 2007 Blackwater Baghdad shootings and its subsequent FBI investigation, Prince has emerged from media seclusion to grant more on-camera interviews. Some noteworthy appearances where he discusses the incident include:

*Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer October 14 2007
*"60 Minutes" October 14 2007
*Charlie Rose October 15 2007

Blackwater controversies

Prince's company, Blackwater Worldwide, has been involved in several international controversies during 2007, leading to his being asked to testify before the United States Congress. Seventeen Iraqi fatalities occurred while a Blackwater private security detail (PSD) was escorting a convoy of US State Department vehicles en route to a meeting in western Baghdad with United States Agency for International Development officials on September 16, 2007.cite web|url=|title=Blackwater killed 17 says Iraq|publisher=BBC News|accessdate=2007-10-08] On September 22, 2007, Federal prosecutors announced an investigation into whether Blackwater employees illegally smuggled weapons into Iraq that were later possibly transferred to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), a Kurdish nationalist group designated a terrorist organization by the US, North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the European Union.cite web|url=|title=Foreign Terrorist Organizations List|publisher=United States Department of State|accessdate=2007-08-03 - USSD Foreign Terrorist Organization] cite web|url=|title=Terrorism Act 2000|publisher=Home Office|accessdate=2007-08-14 - Terrorism Act 2000] cite web|url=|title=Council Decision|publisher=Council of the European Union|accessdate=2007-08-14]

Congressional investigation

On October 2 2007 Prince was subject to a congressional hearing conducted by the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform following the controversy related to Blackwater's conduct in Iraq and Afghanistan.BBC News, [ "Blackwater boss grilled over Iraq"] , October 2, 2007.] Public relations powerhouse Burson-Marsteller was brought in briefly, but at a critical moment, to help Prince, prepare for the Oct 2 hearing. [ [ Blackwater Mounts a Defense With Top Talent]

* When testifying before Congress on October 2 2007, about Blackwater Worldwide's activities in Iraq, Prince complained about the lack of remedies his company has to deal with employee misdeeds. When asked why an employee involved in a fatal incident had been "whisked out of the country" he replied, "We can't flog him, we can't incarcerate him." [ [,,2182296,00.html Iraq security firm denies trigger-happy charge] by Ewen MacAskill, The Guardian, October 3, 2007.]

* When asked by a member of Congress for financial information about his company, he declined to provide it. "We're a private company, and there's a key word there -- private," Prince answered. [ [ The Man From Blackwater, Shooting From the Lip] by Dana Milbank, The Washington Post, October 3, 2007, Page A02.] Later he stated that the company could provide it at a future date if questions were submitted in writing. [ [ Rise of the white-collar mercenary] , Brian Dickerson, Detroit Free Press, October 3, 2007.] [ [ CSPAN video of the quote on Youtube] .]

* When the term "mercenaries" was used to describe Blackwater employees, Prince objected, characterizing them instead as "loyal Americans", notwithstanding the fact that Blackwater employees comprise many nationalities. [ [ Blackwater Unplugged] by Bonnie Goldstein, Slate, October 3, 2007]

ee also

* Cofer Black
* Joseph E. Schmitz


External links

* [ Blackwater USA website] .
* [ Christian Freedom International website] .
* [ Newsobserver article concerning Blackwater plane crash] .
* [ Detailed public records of Prince's campaign contributions] .
* [ The life of Erik Prince] , a timeline of Prince's life at The Detroit Free Press.
* [ The Man Behind Blackwater] by Evan Thomas and Mark Hosenball, Newsweek, Oct 22, 2007.
* [ "Founder of N.C. security company from prominent GOP family"]

Further reading

* "Licensed Kill: Hired Guns in the War on Terror" by Robert Young Pelton, 2006. Prologue, which opens with an account of a meeting with Erik Prince; Chapter 2, and Chapter 11, "The Lord and the Prince" which contrasts the owner of Hart Security with that of Blackwater.

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