The private defense contracting firm formerly known as Blackwater, just can't seem to shake its questionable reputation -- even two name changes later.
The scandal-plagued security company renamed itself Xe Services LLC in 2009, before once again adopting a new name, Academi, in 2011. Now, after years of facing civil lawsuits connected with a 2007 shooting by Blackwater guards in Iraq that left 17 civilians dead, the company is facing yet another legal challenge from a disgruntled sporting goods chain that shares its name.
In a lawsuit filed last week in the U.S. District Court in Houston, Texas, the chain Academy Ltd. -- which has dozens of locations across the South -- claims using the name Academi for the security company is trademark infringement and could cause irreparable harm to the sporting goods chain given Academi's corporate history and the negative media coverage stemming from its security operations in Iraq when it was still known as Blackwater.
Academy Ltd. is asking the court for permanent injunction to prohibit Academi from using that name. The retailer is also requesting that the defendant cover its attorney's fees and court costs, as well as actual and exemplary damages.
Academi has not yet filed a response. In an e-mail John Procter, a company spokesman, said Academi is confident in its position and any claims to the contrary are without merit.
Just how much -- if anything -- Academy Ltd. actually stands to lose from its loose association with the security firm is unclear. The Texas-based chain did not return a request for comment.
Academi, originally Blackwater USA, was formed in 1997 by Erik Prince, a former U.S. Navy SEAL. The company name changes are all part of a strategy to reboot the firm and distance it from its controversial history. Blackwater was the target of at least four grand jury investigations over accusations of tax fraud, improper use of force, arms trafficking and overbilling.
In June, Academi CEO Ted Wright told AOL Defense that the company, in addition to a new name, has also acquired a fresh management team and a board of directors.
You can't instantly change the culture of a company; it takes a great deal of time, Wright said, noting that Academi is still in the early stages of that process. However, it seems as though it is attempting to wash away almost every old Blackwater connection. Wright said only 10 of the company's 60 operatives will be holdovers from the Blackwater era by the end of this year.
Academi is the largest of the U.S. State Department's three private security contractors.