Born In: Holland, Michigan, United States
Erik Prince is an American businessman and former U.S. Navy SEAL officer, who is best recognized as the founder of the private military company Blackwater, which was involved in killing 17 Iraqi civilians and seriously injuring many. He sold the company amidst increased scrutiny by the American government and shifted to the United Arab Emirates where he offered private security services. He led the private equity firm Frontier Resource Group and served as chairman of the Hong Kong-listed Frontier Services Group until 2021. He was a part of a covert CIA task force to kill jihadists; was paid to support Chinese investments in Africa; negotiated foreign involvement by Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Russia in the Trump campaign; aided widely discredited conservative organization Project Veritas in spreading misinformation; and helped Libyan militia leader Khalifa Haftar’s bid to overthrow the U.N.-backed government of Libya.
Also Known As: Erik Dean Prince
Spouse/Ex-: Stacy DeLuke, Joan Prince (m. 1991–2003), Joanna Ruth Prince (m. 2004–2012), Stacy DeLuke
father: Edgar Prince
mother: Elsa Zwiep
siblings: Betsy DeVos, Eileen Prince, Emilie Prince
children: Charles Donovan, Christian Edgar Prince, Erik Xavier Prince, Isabella Grace Prince, Sophia Nicole Prince
Born Country: United States
Notable Alumni: Hillsdale College
U.S. State: Michigan
education: United States Naval Academy, Hillsdale College, Holland Christian High School
Erik Dean Prince was born on June 6, 1969 in Holland, Michigan, United States as the youngest of four children and only son of engineer and businessman Edgar Prince and his wife Elsa. He toured around the world with his father at a young age, visiting the Dachau concentration camp in Germany and the battlefields of Normandy, which left a lasting impression on him.
Heir to the automotive fortune of his father, he was taught free-market, faith-based, Republican values from an early age and dreamed of becoming a fighter pilot when he was young. He entered the US Naval Academy after completing graduation from Holland Christian High School, but left after three semesters on realizing that some went there not out of patriotism, but just for a free education.
He landed internship in the White House under George H. W. Bush in 1990, but was again disappointed witnessing “homosexual groups being invited in, the budget agreement, the Clean Air Act, those kinds of bills”. Prince, who had donated $15,000 to the Republican Party at 19, left the internship disenchanted, but became a backer of presidential candidate Pat Buchanan and interned at Gary Bauer's Family Research Council in Virginia.
He further boosted connection with Christian conservatives by interning for California congressman Dana Rohrabacher. Rohrabacher later described him as a “bright, driven young man” who had volunteered to search for a mass grave in Nicaragua to expose President Daniel Ortega as a killer.
While pursuing B.A. in economics from Hillsdale College, he served as a volunteer firefighter and as a cold-water diver for the Hillsdale County Sheriff's Department, eventually becoming an emergency medical technician, before graduating in 1992. The same year, he was commissioned as an officer in the United States Navy via Officer Candidate School and was later deployed with SEAL Team 8 to Haiti, the Middle East, and the Balkans.
Erik Prince’s SEAL career was cut short after family tragedies struck in 1995, like his father’s death and his pregnant wife’s cancer diagnosis. In 1996, the Prince Group sold for $1.35 billion, and even after splitting between many shareholders, he had enough wealth left to survive the rest of his life.
He revealed in his autobiography that he realized the need for private training facilities for special operations while serving in the Yugoslav Wars and was spurred into action by the 1994 Rwandan genocide. He bought 6,000 acres of the Great Dismal Swamp of North Carolina and set up a school for special operations in 1997 which became the Blackwater Worldwide.
His company was awarded $2 billion in government security contracts between 1997 and 2010, including over $1.6 billion in unclassified federal contracts and an unknown amount of classified work. Blackwater was further awarded up to $600 million in classified contracts by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) between 2001 and 2010, and became the largest of the State Department's three private security companies.
He was thrust into media spotlight during his televised interrogation before the U.S. House committee investigating shootings by Blackwater guards in Iraq in 2007, known as the Nisour Square massacre. His employees opened gunfire on Iraqi civilians, killing 17 and seriously injuring 20, but he argued that accidents happen in the "fog of war”, citing deaths of 27 Blackwater guards in the war.
He also refused to divulge how much he profited from the government contracts pointing to the fact that his company was a “private” enterprise. However, amidst reduced contracts and continued criticism after president Barack Obama took office, he resigned as CEO of Blackwater on March 2, 2009, and sold the company to a group of investors in late 2010.
After The New York Times published a story on CIA hiring Blackwater to kill suspected terrorists in August 2009, he acknowledged it and blamed Democrats in Congress for leaking his name to the press. In 2010, Abu Dhabi crown prince hired him to assemble an 800-member group of foreign troops for the United Arab Emirates, and next year, he trained 2,000 Somalis for anti-piracy operations in Gulf of Aden.
He leads the private equity firm Frontier Resource Group and served as chairman of the Hong Kong-listed Frontier Services Group Ltd, funded by the Chinese government to support its oil and gas investments in Africa. The group was paid $23.3 million by South Sudan's Ministry of Petroleum to transport supplies and perform maintenance on oil production facilities and sold attack helicopters and jets to the government for $43 million.
In May 2018, The New York Times revealed that he arranged and attended an August 2016 meeting in Trump Tower during which Saudi Arabia and the UAE agreed to help Donald Trump win the election. Special Counsel investigators later found that he attended another meeting in the Seychelles in January 2017, during which he apparently represented the Trump transition team while meeting with a Russian investor close to Vladimir Putin.
He was referred to the United States Treasury Department for possible violations of sanctions after he met with a top aide of Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro in December 2019. The New York Times revealed in March 2020 that Prince recruited ex-intelligence agents to infiltrate "Democratic congressional campaigns, labor organizations and other groups considered hostile to the Trump agenda” to assist far-right group Project Veritas.
After The Intercept reported that he offered his services to Russian Wagner group in Mozambique and Libya, United Nations revealed that he helped Libyan warlord Khalifa Haftar to overthrow the U.N.-backed government of Libya. He reportedly used shell companies to finance Project Opus, a plan to supply arms, maritime interdiction, and cyber intelligence and targeting capabilities to Haftar's forces in 2019.
Erik Prince married Joan Nicole in 1991 and had four children with her before she died of cancer in 2003. He had an affair with his children's nanny, Joanna Ruth Houck, while his wife was dying and later married her in 2004.
He is currently married to former Blackwater spokesperson Stacy DeLuke and lives in both Middleburg, Virginia, and Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. He was introduced to Catholicism by his first wife and converted in 1992.
Erik Prince is the younger brother of former United States Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and the brother-in-law of former Alticor (Amway) president Dick DeVos.
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