April 15, 2005 -- A former Inc. 500 entrepreneur who believed in selling to overseas markets has apparently been kidnapped in Iraq.
Jeffrey Ake, 47, founder of Equipment Express in Rolling Prairie, Indiana, is believed to have been abducted Monday from the city of Taji, about 20 miles north of Baghdad, where Ake's company had won a subcontract from the U.S. government to filter and bottle water. The New York Times reported he had been in Iraq just one week.
Ake appeared in a black and white video on Arab satellite network Al-Jazeera Wednesday. He was shown sitting behind a wooden desk clutching what appeared to be a photo and his passport as three masked gunmen loomed behind him. No group has yet claimed responsibility for the kidnapping and a spokesperson for Equipment Express declined comment on the news.
Ake, a father of four, kicked off his career working for his father's company, Electronic Liquid Filters, in 1978. ELF appeared on the Inc. 500 in 1988 and 1989 before the Akes sold the company in 1996.
The younger Ake and his wife, Lilliana, then went on to found Equipment Express in their Indiana garage in 1998. The company makes machines that fill, label, and cap water bottles.
Ake has long been a proponent of U.S.-based businesses moving overseas to expand sales. He contributed an article to Inc. magazine on how to export in 1993 and published a book on the subject called "Aggressive Exporting: How to Make Your Small Company into an International Tiger", in 1996.
According to many report, Ake becomes at least the fourteenth American who has vanished or been kidnapped over the past year in Iraq.