Posts Tagged Erik Prince

Industry Talk: Erik Prince Starts Africa Focused Investment Firm With Frontier Resource Group

Prince, who credits the Navy SEALs with bringing out his entrepreneurial spirit, said there were two main risks that perhaps every businessman in Africa must face.
The first one is the political risk in some countries, and the second is the very bad transportation and infrastructure, which means a high cost of doing business there.
“If you can’t get to market cheaply enough, that’s not interesting,” Prince said.
Many foreign investors came to Africa purely for its natural resources, he said, but they forgot that transporting those resources was as important as exploring and producing them.

This is interesting news. As I mentioned before in prior posts, Africa will be a top focus for PMSC’s just because of all the business and resource extraction potential there. A company like Frontier Resource Group can easily be the company that can link the investors with those PMSC’s that could protect and insure those investments in Africa. Or at the least, FRG can help to identify those investments with the highest chance of success based on the risk assessments done by FRG.

The mention of Chinese investors partnering with FRG is key as well. I mentioned in prior posts about an increase in business for South African PMSC’s or consultants from the Chinese, and it would make sense that Prince would want to step in and serve this particular group of investors. –Matt

Website for Frontier Resource Group here.

 

Into Africa: Ex-navy SEAL sets trail for investors
November 19, 2012
By George Chen
Erik Prince of Blackwater fame has set up a company that will be the ‘search radar’ to help firms manage the risks of investing there
The man who built up Blackwater – the giant private security force that guarded US diplomats in some of the world’s most dangerous places, including Afghanistan and Iraq – sees Africa as his future.
After Erik Prince sold his firm to investors about two years ago, the former officer in the Navy SEALs – the special US military force that killed Osama bin Laden last year – set up a new company called Frontier Resource Group (FRG) early this year.
FRG is an Africa-dedicated investment firm partnered with major Chinese enterprises, including at least one state-owned resource giant that is keen to pour money into the resource-rich continent.
“Africa is so far the most unexplored part of the world, and I think China has seen a lot of promise in Africa,” Prince said during a brief trip to Hong Kong last week to meet potential Chinese investors and partners. “But the problem is if you go alone, you bear the country risk on your own. You have to get support and maintenance there,” Prince, FRG’s managing partner, told the South China Morning Post in an exclusive interview.

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Games: Erik Prince On His Entry Into The Video Game Business

This is cool and I totally agree with Prince on this one. There is an incredible amount of money being made in the video game industry, and all of the big money making video games involve some form of combat and the use of guns in various types of environments throughout the world. Not only that, but they are drawing from historical battles or modern war fighting for ideas. So with that said, it makes total sense for him to enter such a market.

Here are some statistics that support what I am talking about. As of June of 2011, the gaming industry global revenue forecast was about 65 billion dollars. There were 10 million Kinect motion sensors sold, and 55 million Xbox’s sold. The top game was a first person shooter called Call of Duty, like the interview mentioned. With those numbers, it is no wonder that Prince would want to get into this market.

Anyway, this is a cool little interview below. I have not played the Kinect Blackwater game so I have nothing to add on the game itself. I would be interested in any gamer feedback on this thing though? –Matt

 

Blackwater founder Erik Prince enters video game business
By John Gaudiosi
September 12, 2011
More and more, today’s video game business is driven by huge military shooters like Activision’s “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3” and Electronic Arts’ “Battlefield 3.”
Now, Erik Prince, the founder of a controversial, real-world military group, is stepping into the virtual war zone with a new first-person shooter, “Blackwater.”
Designed exclusively for Microsoft’s Kinect for Xbox 360, “Blackwater” was developed by Zombie Studios and overseen by Prince, a former Navy SEAL.
The shooter is set in a fictional North African town overrun by warlords and opposing militia forces. Players enter the fray as team members of Blackwater, the mercenaries-for-hire company that Prince founded in 1997.
Featuring licensed real-world weapons, the game can be played with a traditional controller. But it has been crafted to take advantage of Kinect’s motion controls. Gamers will be able to aim, crouch, and interact with the on-screen action using only body gestures and moves to take out enemies through a series of action-packed missions.
The game has already courted controversy, since Blackwater employees were linked to the deaths of numerous noncombatants and civilians in the Middle East while employed by the U.S. government.
Critics have complained about the game because Blackwater employees take on missions for money, while U.S. soldiers, the focal point of games like “Modern Warfare 3” and “Battlefield 3,” fight for their country.
Following inquiries by Congress into Blackwater actions in Iraq and Afghanistan, including a shootout that led to the deaths of 17 Iraqis, Prince changed the company’s name to Xe and, in 2009, resigned as CEO. He sold the company last year.

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Games: Blackwater, The Video Game

Now this is interesting.  With the amount of celebrity and notoriety that Erik Prince brings to the table, this would make financial sense to actually produce a video game.  These things are huge money makers, and by having Mr. Prince’s blessing for such a thing, could really elevate the interest in the game and equate to sales.

I compare it to football players or sports coaches endorsing video games. These folks are inserted into the story and visual effects of the game, and give the player a feeling that they are actually playing for that team. It is also why players love first person shooter games that are endorsed by former special forces troopers.  Call it the John Madden Effect. lol

So what kind of money are we talking about for video games?  Just look at how much money Call of Duty: Black Ops made?  It set a record on it’s first day of release, making 360 million dollars! As of February of this year, the total amount earned was well over a billion dollars! Who knows where it is at now and you get the picture.

The other thing I wanted to mention is that video games rival movies these days, for the amount of money they make and for the entertainment value.  A game like this can also give Mr. Prince a chance to do some serious strategic communications by showing every player that plays this game, exactly the kind of complex environments companies like this operate in. Video games, like movies, can also benefit from any publicity associated with the thing. So events in the UAE, or wherever, are actually excellent means of driving up the brand name called ‘Blackwater’. –Matt

Infamous Real-Life Mercenaries To Star In Blackwater, The Video Game
By Owen Good
June 8, 2011
Blackwater Worldwide, the real-life mercenary team linked to the killing of civilians and noncombatants in Iraq during US operations there, will be the subject of a Kinect-supported video game coming to the Xbox 360 later this year.
Published by 505 Games and titled, simply, Blackwater, the game is being produced in consultation with the private security contractor’s founder, the former Navy SEAL Erik Prince.
A news release called it “an intense, cinematic shooter experience”, set in a fictional North African town, in which players, as Blackwater operatives, battle two warlords’ factions to protect the city.
“This game and its immersive Kinect-based approach will give players the chance to experience what it is like to be on a Blackwater team on a mission without being dropped into a real combat situation,” Prince said in a statement issued by 505. The game was developed with in conjunction with former Blackwater members “to ensure accuracy of moves, gestures and gameplay,” the 505 release said. “The game also features a selection of officially-licensed weapons for your soldier to choose from.”

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Industry Talk: Saudi Arabia To Raise A Multi-Billion Dollar, 35,000 Member ‘Facilities Security Force’ With US Help

In October 2008, Ford Fraker, then the U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia, called the facilities security force program “probably the single biggest initiative for the U.S.-Saudi relationship” and said the value of contracts associated with the program could reach tens of billions of dollars…..

The special security force is expected to grow to at least 35,000 members, trained and equipped by U.S. personnel as part of a multiagency effort that includes staff from the Justice Department, Energy Department and Pentagon. It is overseen by the U.S. Central Command.
The force’s main mission is to protect vital oil infrastructure, but its scope is wider. A formerly secret State Department cable released by the WikiLeaks website described the mission as protecting “Saudi energy production facilities, desalination plants and future civil nuclear reactors.”

Oh boy.  Now everyone was freaking out about the whole R2 contract in the UAE for an 800 man battalion, but a 35,000 man ‘facilities security force’ is way bigger and more valuable. I will say that the Vinnell Arabia contract is a sizable and long term contract and has been a source of employment for the industry for awhile, but this new force could take contracts there to a whole new level.

And that quote up top by U.S. ambassador Ford Fraker is quite significant. He said ‘tens of billions of dollars’ folks!  Now you can see exactly what Erik Prince was thinking about when he wanted to create a mega training facility in the desert of the UAE.  A 35,000 man force requires a ton of training to start up and maintain over the years, and training providers will be a premium in that part of the world.

It also makes sense why the US is not freaking out about Prince and his plans in the UAE.  For a force this large in Saudi Arabia, and with all the competition for trainers and manpower throughout the world in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, you can see that every competent and capable training facility out there will be very popular. Especially facilities that are close, cost effective, and deliver a quality service.  Of course the Saudis will also build local facilities for training and housing these forces. But for the really specialized stuff that I am sure R2 will offer, they could easily cater to forces like this.

Let’s not forget about what the national interest is for the US and it’s allies–keep the oil flowing.  Saudi Arabia is a key part of our energy policy, and their oil and refinery capability is vital to the US economy.  Any threat to that oil, be it from terrorists, internal uprising or Iran, is a threat to US national security.  That is the relationship we have right now, and we will continue to have for awhile.

I also think that we cannot afford to see Saudi Arabia collapse via uprisings.  Libya or Egypt collapsing was one thing, but losing Saudi Arabia to political collapse would be unacceptable. And in the case of this massive facilities security force, we either train their forces to stand the line, or it could potentially be US troops standing that line if Saudi Arabia were to explode. Contracts like Vinnell Arabia or the future contracts for this current force, are insurance for the west pure and simple. –Matt

……The forging of closer U.S.-Saudi military ties is so sensitive, particularly in Saudi Arabia, that the Pentagon and the State Department declined requests for on-the-record comment and U.S. officials rejected a request for an interview with the two-star Army general, Robert G. Catalanotti, who manages the project to build a “facilities security force” to protect the Saudis’ network of oil installations and other critical infrastructure. The Saudi Embassy in Washington did not respond to two written requests for comment. –Understanding Saudi Stability and Instability: A Very Different Nation, By Anthony H. Cordesman, Feb 26, 2011
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U.S. quietly expanding defense ties with Saudis
By Robert Burns
Thursday May 19, 2011
WASHINGTON — Despite their deepening political divide, the United States and Saudi Arabia are quietly expanding defense ties on a vast scale, led by a little-known project to develop an elite force to protect the kingdom’s oil riches and future nuclear sites.
The U.S. also is in discussions with Saudi Arabia to create an air and missile defense system with far greater capability against the regional rival the Saudis fear most, Iran. And it is with Iran mainly in mind that the Saudis are pressing ahead with a historic $60 billion arms deal that will provide dozens of new U.S.-built F-15 combat aircraft likely to ensure Saudi air superiority over Iran for years.
Together these moves amount to a historic expansion of a 66-year-old relationship that is built on America’s oil appetite, sustained by Saudi reliance on U.S. military reach and deepened by a shared worry about the threat of al-Qaida and the ambitions of Iran.

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Industry Talk: The UAE Contracts With Erik Prince To Raise An Army–To Deal With Iran!

So this is what Mr. Prince was up to in the UAE?….and what a project! Lookout French Foreign Legion, here comes the UAE’s first Foreign Legion/PMC hybrid built by Erik Prince. (Vinnell Arabia eat your heart out. lol) There are many things here to talk about, so let’s get started with some of the stuff that jumped out at me.

First, the creation of this force was so that it can be used to deal with Iran, or whatever national interests of the UAE. The Iran angle is smart, because that makes a lot of folks in the west happy. (which could explain why there isn’t much ado from the US about this) It sounds like a blended work force of foreign forces (Americans, South Africans, Colombians, etc.) and Emirates troops, all answering to the laws of the UAE and to the Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces. Part PMC  and part Foreign Legion. But legally, here is a snippet from the contract:

Article 17
Compliance with the Laws, Regulations and Bylaws
The Second Party undertakes to comply with all the laws, regulations and bylaws in force in the State, and all provisions of the Decision of the Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces referred to hereinabove shall apply to this Contract, provided that the general legal principles in force in the State concerning contracts and contracting methods of the administration shall apply to any matter regarding which there is no specific provision in the said Decision or in this Contract.

The article below also had a quote from international trade lawyer Susan Kovarovics. I would certainly hope that if this Foreign Legion hybrid is within the best interest of the US, that they would have provided ITARs or similar blessings to Prince or any of the American trainers participating in this.  I kind of look at it like the Vinnell Arabia contract that has been going on for years in Saudi Arabia training the SANG.  But Susan is the expert here:

Susan Kovarovics, an international trade lawyer who advises companies about export controls, said that because Reflex Responses was an Emirati company it might not need State Department authorization for its activities.
But she said that any Americans working on the project might run legal risks if they did not get government approval to participate in training the foreign troops.

The contract is also very interesting in that it has a ‘Performance Bond’, which is a great thing to have in a contract. I have been pushing for similar performance bonds for US contracts, much like our early privateers were bonded before they were given a license. R2 had to put up ‘ten percent of the contract value’ as a bond. My fuzzy math says that is close to 53 million dollars! Quite the incentive to do well, and just imagine a modern military operating with a similar contract mechanism? lol

The amount of money this contract is worth and time period of it is also listed in the contract and stated in the article below. Here it is for anyone that is curious:

Contract Period June 2010 – May 2015
Total Cost $529,166,754.13

If Reflex Responses Management Consultancy LLC or R2 can deliver on this first test battalion, it sounds like the UAE is prepared to expand on the thing. The contract goes up to May of 2015, so a lot can happen between now and then.

Now as far as what they will be used for, who knows?  The article below says that this legion could be used to take a few islands off the coast and keep them out of Iranian hands? That this force could also be a deterrent to deal with Iran, which I think that is the real reason why the US would be ok with such a set up. Here is a quote on some of the possible tasks of this force:

Corporate documents describe the battalion’s possible tasks: intelligence gathering, urban combat, the securing of nuclear and radioactive materials, humanitarian missions and special operations “to destroy enemy personnel and equipment.”
One document describes “crowd-control operations” where the crowd “is not armed with firearms but does pose a risk using improvised weapons (clubs and stones).”
The foreign military force was planned months before the so-called Arab Spring revolts that many experts believe are unlikely to spread to the U.A.E. Iran was a particular concern.

Here is the part of the article that talks specifically about Iran. Pretty wild, and this kind of operation is certainly offensive in nature if they do it:

Although there was no expectation that the mercenary troops would be used for a stealth attack on Iran, Emirati officials talked of using them for a possible maritime and air assault to reclaim a chain of islands, mostly uninhabited, in the Persian Gulf that are the subject of a dispute between Iran and the U.A.E., the former employees said. Iran has sent military forces to at least one of the islands, Abu Musa, and Emirati officials have long been eager to retake the islands and tap their potential oil reserves.

Finally there is the future of this project, and more importantly, what Prince envisions. This is where the Foreign Legion turns into a hybrid type force.  It would be like Secopex training and providing logistics for the FFL, and offering the training facility to other private or government forces. Here is the quote:

But by last November, the battalion was officially behind schedule. The original goal was for the 800-man force to be ready by March 31; recently, former employees said, the battalion’s size was reduced to about 580 men.
Emirati military officials had promised that if this first battalion was a success, they would pay for an entire brigade of several thousand men. The new contracts would be worth billions, and would help with Mr. Prince’s next big project: a desert training complex for foreign troops patterned after Blackwater’s compound in Moyock, N.C.

So will R2 be opening it’s doors for training to the world, much like how BW operated in the US?   If true, I could see something like this becoming a multi-billion dollar project for Prince and company. Just because it would be located in the middle east and cater to all the OPEC nations.  That is a pretty wealthy neighborhood to cater too, and this will be one to watch in the coming years. Also, if anyone at R2 or Thor Global Enterprises would like to add anything to the discussion, please feel free to do so in the comments or contact me directly. When these two companies actually set up an online website, I will make the edits. At this time, I have not been able to find anything other than a listing at IDEX 2011. (hint–if you guys are having a hard time recruiting enough folks for the project, then at the least you should have a website and recruitment page) –Matt

Edit: I would also like to mention that Eeben Barlow has reacted severely to this article because of the reporter’s false and libellous statements about Executive Outcomes. EO did not ‘stage coups attempts’, and the New York Times should do the right thing and make an edit or publish a separate correction to the article. Hell, if the reporters below would have actually took the time to contact Eeben on his blog or read some of his posts, he has actually stopped coups in the past and has been vehemently opposed to them.

Edit: 05/20/2011 Finally the NYT’s makes a correction. Hopefully an apology is sent as well. Here it is:

NYT Corrections
Published: May 18, 2011
FRONT PAGE
An article on Sunday about the creation of a mercenary battalion in the United Arab Emirates misstated the past work of Executive Outcomes, a former South African mercenary firm whose veterans have been recruited for the new battalion. Executive Outcomes was hired by several African governments during the 1990s to put down rebellions and protect oil and diamond reserves; it did not stage coup attempts. (Some former Executive Outcomes employees participated in a 2004 coup attempt against the government of Equatorial Guinea, several years after the company itself shut down.)

Edit: 5/29/2011- Eeben has posted a reaction to the correction, and you can find that here.

Edit: 6/7/2011- Here is another correction that the NYT’s has had to make. Very interesting.

New York Times
June 7, 2011
Correction
An article on May 15 about efforts to build a battalion of foreign mercenary troops in the
United Arab Emirates referred imprecisely to the role played by Erik Prince, the founder
of the security firm Blackwater Worldwide. He worked to oversee the effort and recruit
troops. But Mr. Prince does not run or own the company Reflex Responses, which has a
contract with the government of the U.A.E. to train and deliver the troops, according to
the company president, Michael Roumi. An article on May 16 repeated the error.

A satellite image of the camp in the United Arab Emirates built to train an 800-member military unit.

 

R2 Logo

Secret Desert Force Set Up by Blackwater’s Founder
By MARK MAZZETTI and EMILY B. HAGER
May 14, 2011
ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — Late one night last November, a plane carrying dozens of Colombian men touched down in this glittering seaside capital. Whisked through customs by an Emirati intelligence officer, the group boarded an unmarked bus and drove roughly 20 miles to a windswept military complex in the desert sand.
The Colombians had entered the United Arab Emirates posing as construction workers. In fact, they were soldiers for a secret American-led mercenary army being built by Erik Prince, the billionaire founder of Blackwater Worldwide, with $529 million from the oil-soaked sheikdom.

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Industry Talk: Somalia TFG Cancels Contract With Saracen International

     Yarow said his government, which controls only part of Mogadishu in a country that has seen mostly anarchy for two decades, wanted assistance, but only from companies with distinguished records.

     “The Cabinet has today overwhelmingly voted against Saracen International,” Yarrow said. 

     Yes, but the Puntland contract is still in place. But as far as this contract, who knows who they will choose to replace Saracen? Whomever the donor country is, they are they ones forking over the money and will find a company the TFG can deal with.

    As for dropping Saracen purely because of Erik Prince’s supposed involvement, is pretty stupid if you ask me.  More than likely he was just advising the main planners.  I am sure his connections were useful as well.  But really, you use guys like this because they can see the whole picture and have experience with really dangerous projects.  And because someone else was paying for his services, why would the TFG care? Hell, that government needs all the help they can get, and here they are ditching a security training contract.

    Of course the media loved fueling whatever negativity they could.  Blackwater does not exist anymore, Xe has nothing to do with Saracen, and Erik Prince is doing his own thing in another country.  And yet as soon as Prince was mentioned in some report (that I have yet to see), all of a sudden Saracen International becomes the new Blackwater. Pffft. Meanwhile, islamists and pirates win another one. –Matt

Edit: 01/28/2011 – Check out the story I posted in the comments.  The reporters at the Associated Press are really going off on this deal. All I can say is bravo to the Puntland government for not being influenced by a biased media.

Somalia cancels military training project linked to Blackwater founder

By Mohamed Sheikh Nor

January 27, 2011

MOGADISHU, Somalia — Somalia’s government decided on Thursday to cancel an agreement with a private security company linked to the founder of Blackwater Worldwide to train Somali forces to go after pirates and insurgents, a senior official said.

Deputy Security Minister Ibrahim Mohamed Yarow told The Associated Press that the Cabinet, meeting behind closed doors, ended the agreement with Saracen International in a decision he said is “irrevocable.”

The AP reported last week that Erik Prince, whose former company Blackwater Worldwide became synonymous with the use of private U.S. security forces running amok in Iraq and Afghanistan, had quietly taken on a new role in the project to train troops in lawless Somalia. Blackwater guards were charged with killing 14 civilians in 2007 in the Iraqi capital.

Yarow said his government, which controls only part of Mogadishu in a country that has seen mostly anarchy for two decades, wanted assistance, but only from companies with distinguished records.

“The Cabinet has today overwhelmingly voted against Saracen International,” Yarrow said.

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