In 24 years as Managing General Partner of the Miami HEAT, Micky Arison has guided the franchise to unprecedented heights, including bringing South Florida three NBA championships.
As the leader of the most successful cruise operation in the world, the 70-year-old Arison and his family have always been involved with the team. Although his father, Ted, brought the NBA franchise to South Florida in 1988, it has only been since Micky took control in 1995 that the HEAT has evolved into one of the NBA’s top organizations.
Arison, who was elected Chairman of the NBA Board of Governors in October 2005 and served a three-year term, brought to the HEAT the same standard of excellence that propelled Carnival Corporation & plc into a global vacation leader. One of Arison’s first moves was to dramatically re-shape the franchise by hiring Pat Riley, one of the NBA's all-time winningest coaches, as Miami's President and that began a run of sustained excellence.
Together, Arison and Riley have built an organization that is considered one of the NBA’s elite franchises. In addition to winning NBA championships in 2006, 2012 and 2013, with Arison and Riley at the helm, Miami has made the playoffs in 18 of the last 24 seasons, winning 13 division titles, five Eastern Conference championships and advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals seven times. The 13 division titles the HEAT has captured over the last 24 years are the most in the Eastern Conference during that span and second most in the NBA.
Arison and Riley have been able to maintain a level of excellence in Miami by pulling off some of the largest acquisitions in the league. They initially built the foundation of success by acquiring franchise cornerstones Alonzo Mourning and Tim Hardaway. Next came Dwyane Wade and Shaquille O’Neal and a blockbuster 13-player trade, the largest in NBA history, in which they acquired James Posey, Jason Williams and All-Star Antoine Walker, all key cogs in Miami’s first title run. The groundwork for Miami’s 2012 and 2013 championships was built in the summer of 2010 when Arison and Riley played key roles in re-signing Wade to a multi-year contract and acquiring NBA All-Stars LeBron James and Chris Bosh via sign-and-trades.
Previously, Arison showed his commitment to the fans of South Florida when he worked successfully with Miami-Dade public officials to keep the HEAT in downtown Miami. The result of his diligence was an innovative public-private partnership that together built the county-owned state-of-the-art FTX Arena that fans enjoy and the three-time NBA Champion HEAT calls home.
Arison has enjoyed an all-star business career as well, growing up in the cruise business and spending the better part of two decades learning it from the ground up before being named chairman and CEO of Carnival Corporation & plc in 1990. In 2013, the role of Carnival Corporation & plc chairman and CEO was split with Arison continuing to serve as chairman and longtime Carnival board member Arnold Donald named CEO.
Arison followed his education with a two-year stint in the Carnival Cruise Lines sales department. He became reservations manager in 1974, and took over the post of vice president of passenger traffic in 1976, succeeding to the presidency in 1979. In 1990, he was appointed chairman of the company’s board of directors.
In 1987, the company went public, generating $400 million for future expansion. As Carnival continued its growth through the traditional avenue of new ship construction, Arison also sought to expand the company’s cruise operations by entering new market segments of the industry.
In 1989, Arison engineered the acquisition of the venerable Holland America Line, giving Carnival entry to the premium segment of the cruise industry. Arison also led the company’s effort in the acquisition of ultra-luxury leader Seabourn, as well as Cunard, operator of the world’s most famous ocean liners, and Costa Cruises, Europe’s number one cruise company.
Arison also spearheaded Carnival Corporation’s acquisition of P&O Princess Cruises, one of the most recognizable names in travel, in a deal valued at approximately $8.2 billion. The combined Carnival/Princess group, named Carnival Corporation & plc, is the largest cruise vacation group, with a diverse portfolio of brands catering to vacationers from all over the world. The Carnival/Princess entity is truly a global vacation leader with its stock trading on both the New York and London exchanges.
Under his direction, Carnival Corporation & plc has grown into the largest, most successful cruise operator in the world. Arison’s keen attention to marketing and growth priorities has also increased revenues from approximately $600 million in 1988 to $18.9 billion in 2018.
Today, as chairman of Carnival Corporation & plc, he oversees diversified travel and tourism holdings, including cruise ships serving virtually every market segment -- from contemporary to ultra-luxury -- as well as leading tour operators and hotel chains in Alaska and the Yukon Territory.
The Arison family and Carnival Corporation & plc are devoted to South Florida and over the years have supported a variety of arts-related and community service organizations. Organizations supported by the Arison family and Carnival include the New World Symphony, The National YoungArts Foundation, Miami Children’s Museum, Jackson Memorial Foundation, Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, Project Medishare for Haiti, American Red Cross, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, United Way, Chapman Partnership and many others.
Arison’s contributions to the cruise industry have been recognized by a wide range of international organizations. He has been named an “Officer of the French Legion of Honor” – the country’s highest civilian honor – by French President Jacques Chirac, received a honorary doctorate in naval architecture from the University of Genoa, and has been awarded the Decoration of Commander, First Class, of the Order of the Lion of Finland by the President of the Republic of Finland. He has also been awarded the insignia of “Onorificenza al Merito della Repubblica Italiana” by the President of Italy, which confers that country’s highest title on a civilian.