Were Cruise Ship Accidents too Much for Micky Arison to Handle?

Lipcon, Marguiles, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A

Carnival cruiseIt should be noted at the outset that under the guidance of Micky Arison that Carnival Cruise Lines and related companies have probably become the most important, the most successful and most profitable cruise lines in history. That is no small feat. It was all done under the guidance of Micky Arison.

Micky Arison’s recent announcement that he was stepping down as CEO of Carnival Corp. came as a shock to many in the maritime community, including our cruise ship lawyers here at Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A. But what is even more shocking is the reasoning behind his decision because we know absolutely nothing about it. News of Arison’s decision swept the nation on Tuesday and we can’t help but be a little curious as to whether the recent string of cruise ship accidents had anything to do with it.

According to Arison’s replacement, Arnold Donald, the answer is ‘no’. But of course, this wouldn’t be the first time a cruise ship employee has stretched the truth.

In an interview with CBS This Morning, Donald explained that while Arison will be stepping down officially on July 3 after 34 years as CEO of the “Fun Ship” company, he will still remain the chairman and largest shareholder in the company, which alone will bring in a few million.

Donald added that Arison had long been thinking of dividing the chairman and CEO roles in the company after the Triumph cruise ship fire in February rocked the industry. Over 4,000 passengers were forced to drift aimlessly in the Gulf of Mexico for five days with no power, working toilets and amidst what could be the worst lack of sanitation onboard any cruise vessel.

So then he was escaping the negative press that comes with some very poorly handled cruise ship accidents? Donald stresses that it’s just a coincidence, admitting the “juxtaposition of the time frames” would certainly make it seem that way. However, he contends Arison had planned the division of the roles and the recent cruise ship accidents actually prolonged the process.

Ok, so let’s say it wasn’t the pressure that has been surmounting Carnival for months on end that pushed him to the edge but a belief that splitting CEO and chairman roles would somehow work out better for the company, what then will the chairman’s role in the company be now? Is the new CEO going to have the sole responsibility of dealing with the media and the aftermath of a very long string of cruise ship mishaps while Arison escapes, much like the company itself, unscathed?

Perhaps the real reason behind Arison’s announcement was the fact that his Miami Heat won another title and the revenue from that alone will sustain him for years to come. Who knows? One thing is for sure though, Micky Arison’s wealth isn’t going anywhere.

Micky Arison’s net worth is currently estimated at $5.7 billion, making him the richest man in the entire state of Florida and 16th wealthiest man in the entire nation.  We already know Carnival took a major hit this year after the Triumph cruise ship fire and then what seemed to be a domino-effect of cruise ship disasters one after another.  In fact, Carnival Corp.’s once family-friendly image began tarnishing with the Costa Concordia capsizing tragedy in January 2012. It’s only common sense to think Arison might be trying to dodge a financial bullet by stepping down as CEO.

Or maybe, he was ousted by fellow board members. Despite the success Arison brought to Carnival Corp., the recent equipment failures on several ships, criticism of the company’s overall lack of safety onboard its vessels, and unwillingness to compensate passengers who have been involved in cruise ship accidents have done nothing to help the company. Or have they?

Here’s another question to think about: Did the cruise ship accidents actually make Carnival Corp. money?

After all, Carnival fights tooth and nail to limit its liability for accidents, injuries and crimes onboard its vessels and even goes as far as to say in its passenger ticket contract that if a passenger suffers a medical emergency and requires assistance outside the cruise ship they are sailing on, they may be forced to reimburse Carnival for whatever it cost to get them the medical treatment.

It’s also interesting to note that while Carnival projected a loss in revenue for the rest of the year, it actually reported a profit in the second quarter of $41 million – triple the gains from last year.

Many wonder if Carnival Corp. will ever bounce back to become the fun cruise liner it once was. And the answer is sure, but it will take a while. Maybe Arison knows something we don’t know, especially since he didn’t name his son as his successor.

Is this the end of the Arison Carnival dynasty? Only time will tell. Hopefully the next people in charge will do a better job at reducing the number of cruise ship accidents.