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Former Blackwater is putting itself up for sale

The security firm formerly known as Blackwater is looking for new ownership.
/ Source: The Associated Press

The security firm formerly known as Blackwater is looking for new ownership, announcing Monday it is pursuing a sale of the company that became renowned and reviled for its involvement with the U.S. government in Iraq and elsewhere.

The Moyock, N.C.-based company now called Xe Services announced its decision in a brief statement that gave few details.

"Xe's new management team has made significant changes and improvements to the company over the last 15 months, which have enabled the company to better serve the U.S. government and other customers, and will deliver additional value to a purchaser," the statement said.

Owner and founder Erik Prince said selling the company is a difficult decision, but constant criticsm of Xe helped him make up his mind.

"Performance doesn't matter in Washington, just politics," Prince said in a further statement.

The private company became famous as Blackwater, which provided guards and services to the U.S. government in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. It became one of the most respected defense contractors in the world, but also attracted sharp criticism over its role in those missions.

It has been trying to rehabilitate its image since a 2007 shooting in Baghdad that killed 17 people, outraged the Iraqi government and led to federal charges against several Blackwater guards. The accusations later were thrown out of court after a judge found prosecutors mishandled evidence.

In March, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin suggested the Pentagon should consider banning Xe from a $1 billion deal to train Afghan police. The Michigan Democrat said he thought the company's involvement was hindering the U.S. mission in Afghanistan.

Prince, who founded the company in 1997 along with former colleagues from the Navy SEALs, said he does not anticipate having any role in Xe after the sale.

The process of finding a buyer and completing the deal is expected to take several months, according to spokeswoman Stacy DeLuke.

The announcement comes less than three months after Xe sold its aviation division for $200 million to Wood Dale, Ill.-based AAR Corp in a bid to strengthen Xe's balance sheet.

More recently, five former executives, including Gary Jackson, the company's ex-president, were indicted on charges of conspiring to violate federal firearms laws. Jackson was among the top officials who left the company last year in a management shakeup.