Nation & World

Xe, formerly Blackwater, names new leadership

First Blackwater changed its name. Now it is changing its management.

Erik Prince, owner of Xe, the North Carolina-based security contractor and training company known until last month as Blackwater Worldwide, has stepped down as the chief executive officer.

The company did not name a replacement for Prince. The Wall Street Journal today reported on its Web site that Prince will retain his post as chairman but relinquish daily oversight of the company.

Prince named a new president and a chief operating officer/executive vice president, according to a news release issued early today. The new president, Joseph Yorio, is a former vice president at the shipping company DHL and former Army special forces officer.

Another long-time employee, Danielle Esposito, was named Xe's new chief operating officer and executive vice president.

Prince, 39, had held the reins since founding the company in 1997.

In January the company learned that the state department would not renew its lucrative contract guarding U.S. diplomats in Iraq when it expires in May. The state department's decision came after the Iraqi government said that it would not give the company a license to operate there.

Five Xe guards have pleaded not guilty to charges brought by federal prosecutors for their roles in a shooting at a Baghdad traffic circle in Sept. 2007 in which 17 Iraqi civilians were killed. A sixth guard pleaded guilty and is working with prosecutors. Iraqi officials cited that shooting as one reason for denying the license.

Last month when Blackwater changed its name, company officials said they planned to refocus on training and other endeavors such as aviation and logistics, and would no longer seek new security jobs.

Xe's headquarters in Moyock sits on what is believed to be the world's largest privately-held firearms training facility, and the company got its start there training military units, law enforcement officers and civilians. It owns smaller facilities in Illinois and California.

The news release Monday from company spokeswoman Anne Tyrrell said recent departures from Xe include its former vice chairman, chief operating officer, president, and executive vice president. She referred to the changes as part of a "continued reorganization and self-improvement."

The release did not say why former company president Gary Jackson, left, but Tyrrell said Jackson, who is 52, is retiring. Jackson was a long-time fixture at the company and, like Prince, a former Navy SEAL.