Carnival's CEO is loud about his NBA team, quiet about his company

February 15, 2013: 3:36 PM ET
micky arison
Carnival CEO Micky Arison has yet to speak to media or grant interviews. Instead, that task was left to a regional cruise manager.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney)

There are two versions of Micky Arison.

One is the billionaire deeply involved in the success of his professional basketball team, the Miami Heat. That Arison is close with the players, attends nearly every home game and talks often about the team on Twitter.

The other is the CEO of cruise company Carnival (CCL) -- he remains largely silent during company disasters.

It happened in 2010, when an engine fire knocked a cruise ship offline and forced nearly 4,500 to spend three days stranded in the Pacific. It happened last year during the Costa Concordia shipwreck, which killed 32 off the coast of Italy.

And it's happening again.

This week, an engine fire left 4,229 trapped for five days aboard the Carnival Triumph surrounded by pools of urine and feces piling in hallways.

His only reference to the incident came Friday afternoon, when he tweeted, "We are very sorry for the difficult conditions experienced by our guests on #CarnivalTriumph but glad that all guests are off safe & sound."

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Arison has yet to speak to the media or grant interviews. Instead, that task was left to a regional cruise manager. The company's cruise line chief executive, Gerry Cahill, spoke as the ship finally arrived Thursday night in Mobile, Ala.

"I know the conditions onboard were very poor," Cahill told reporters. "I know it was very difficult, and I want to apologize again for subjecting our guests to that. We pride ourselves in providing our guests with a great vacation experience, and clearly we failed in this particular case."

The difference between the two Arisons became even more apparent on Tuesday night. While the Triumph slowly drifted toward land, Arison sat in the stands at Miami's AmericanAirlines Arena and watched as his players defeated the Portland Trail Blazers 117-104.

Neither Arison nor Carnival provided immediate responses to questions sent by CNNMoney on Friday.

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In the past, Arison has said he thinks it unnecessary "to get in front of a camera."

During the time of the Costa Concordia, Arison issued a statement of condolence and did not attend a few Miami Heat games. But he avoided speaking publicly for another two months, eventually granting an interview with the Miami Herald.

This time around, until Friday, he had simply retweeted Carnival company statements. He also tweeted a reminder about the Heat game versus the Trail Blazers.

It's a different world for Arison the basketball team owner. He openly talks about the team, sometimes unabashedly, to the point where the NBA actually fined him $500,000 for using Twitter as a sounding board. A pay dispute between players and owners had the league at a lockout at the time in 2011, and Arison was responding to a fan that called him a greedy "pig."

"You are barking at the wrong owner," Arison said via Twitter.

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It's not that Arison shies away from dark moments. He's taken to Twitter several times after Heat losses, like the Dec. 5 game against Washington Wizards and Jan. 14 game against the Utah Jazz.

There are signs that basketball is closer to his heart. In 2011, Arison made his son, Nick, the team's chief executive officer. It's not the first time an Arison has passed along the family empire. Micky Arison inherited the cruise company founded in 1972 by his father, Ted Arison. Its growth has inflated Micky Arison's net worth, estimated by Forbes at $5 billion.

Scott Sobel, a crisis public relations manager in Washington D.C., said: "I don't think his reputation is going to suffer. He's going to score more by being a friendly, open sports team owner. He's not going to be penalized by being more cautious with his cruise line business.

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