Erik Prince, the owner and former CEO of private security giant Blackwater, is putting his company up for sale. Prince, who was previously a CIA asset and recently suggested Blackwater run global military operations on behalf of big oil, says he can no longer endure the political attacks on the company he founded in 1997. Prince may have timed the decision well, as Blackwater has just expanded from its profitable but controversial core business of killing people into the slightly less contested retail market. Here's what the sale means and what's next for Blackwater.

  • Comes After Recent Company Changes  The Associated Press explains, "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." Blackwater's public statement reads, "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."
  • Raises Serious Dilemma for CIA, Special Forces  The Nation's Jeremy Scahill writes, "The most interesting aspect of this story is what will happen to Blackwater's clandestine/covert work for the CIA and the Joint Special Operations Command."
Blackwater did not rise to prominence in a vacuum and it did not create the demand for the kinds of forces and services it offers. Even if Erik Prince leaves the mercenary game, Blackwater will continue on--almost certainly under a different name and, it seems, new ownership. The type of clandestine operations and top tier special forces operators Blackwater has provided to the US government and military will be in increasing demand in the years ahead, particularly as the Obama administration expands the operations of US special forces globally. The bottom line is that there are a finite number of top level operators and Blackwater employed a lot of them.
  • Who Should Buy It?  Wired's Noah Shachtman runs a poll. Top contenders so far include British Petroleum ("Somebody is gonna have to keep all those sunbathers away from the beach"), Steve Jobs ("Because Blackwater isn't secretive and vindictive enough") and reporter Jeremy Scahill, who literally wrote the book on Blackwater and whose scathing investigations of the company have, as Chris Hayes put it, probably single-handedly dropped the company's resale value.
  • ...Let's Hope No One Does  Jeremy Scahill sighs, "If there was ever a company that should have no buyer and no customers, it's Blackwater."
  • Talking Points Memo: We're Making a Bid  TPM chief Josh Marshall quips, "I've noticed with some interest that none other than Newsmax has garnered a lot of free publicity by saying it's interested in buying Newsweek, the Washington Post's soon-to-be-abandoned weekly news magazine. So I'm now considering having TPM officially become a bidder on Blackwater which has just now gone on sale."