Dad's Business, Boats, and Basketball: Why Micky Arison Is Florida's Richest Person

By Markets Fool.com

In the most general terms, Micky Arison could be the archetypical Florida man: He worked for and eventually took over his dad's business, he likes boats, and he enjoys basketball. What makes Arison, age 65, different is that his dad's business was Carnival Cruise Lines, he's a majority partner in the Miami Heat NBA franchise, and his net worth makes him, once again, the richest person in Florida, according to this spring's report by Forbes on the wealthiest people in each U.S. state.

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Arison's net worth has grown from $4.7 billion in 2012 to $7.1 billion this year. A bit more than half of that comes from the nearly 12% stake he holds in Carnival Corporation . It's the world's largest cruise company, with a total market capitalization of $35 billion and nine cruise brands, including the original Carnival Cruise Lines. Arison serves as chairman; he retired from his position as CEO after 34 years in 2013. He also inherited wealth from his billionaire father and has roughly tripled the value of the Heat since 1995.

From one ship stuck on a sandbar to the world's biggest cruise fleet
When he started working at Carnival, it was in sales. His father, Ted Arison, had co-founded Carnival in 1972 with a single refurbished ship that ran aground on its first sailing out of South Florida. After starting badly and losing money, the company found its footing with a marketing approach focused on shipboard amenities.

Micky, meanwhile, moved up to reservations manager, and then vice president of passenger traffic. He became Carnival's president in 1979 and oversaw the company's July 1987 IPO that raised $400 million. The timing was fortunate -- less than three months before the "Black Monday" market crash that knocked nearly a quarter off the value of the Dow Jones Industrial Average in a single day of trading.

Micky Arison also oversaw the acquisition of a number of other cruise lines and the 1993 name change of the parent company to Carnival Corporation and plc. When Ted Arison died in 1999, he had a personal net worth of $5.6 billion, and Carnival operated a fleet of 45 ships and was already the world's biggest cruise operator. Today, the company owns more than 100 ships, is developing partnerships in China, and plans to grow its fleet by 20% by 2022.

Turning up the (Miami) Heat
Arison's role as managing partner of the Miami Heat basketball team started as a family venture, too. Ted Arison backed the new franchise in 1988, but it languished with a poor record until Micky took over as managing partner in 1995. He spent $33 million to buy out two minority stakeholders, and then hired Pat Riley to be team president.

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Since then, the Heat has built a much stronger franchise, with multiple division titles, Eastern conference championships, and NBA championships in 2006, 2012, and 2013. Arison's team has acquired top talent over the years, including Shaquille O'Neal, who played for the Heat from 2004-2007, and Dwyane Wade, who's been with the team since 2003, when he was the Heat's first-round draft pick. Although LeBron James left Miami for Cleveland last year, Arison's $33 million investment has grown to a franchise valued at $1.175 billion.

Pitfalls and philanthropy
As successful as Arison has been at growing the enterprises he leads, he's taken some knocks as well. During his last years as Carnival CEO, the company suffered the fatal wreck in 2012 of the Costa Concordia, which killed 32 people and was judged this year to be the captain's fault, and the infamous "poop cruise" of 2013 that stranded 4,200 Carnival Triumph passengers for nearly a week without running water in the Gulf of Mexico.

CNN Money and other media outlets criticized Arison at the time for his lack of public comment on those disasters. He also took flak for his attendance at a Miami Heat game while the disabled Triumph, filled with hungry passengers who were forced to improvise their own waste management, was towed into port.

Arison and his family have received positive attention for their support of a number of fine arts and social service organizations in South Florida. Forbes cited Arison's generosity in the wake of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, when he donated his Carnival yearly bonus of $2.4 million to disaster relief in the region. Arison also lent three Carnival ships to the government for temporary housing of people displaced by Hurricane Katrina.

Given his inherited wealth, his stake in Carnival, and the market value of the Miami Heat, it's a safe bet that Arison will remain at or near the top of the list of wealthiest Floridians for the foreseeable future.

The article Dad's Business, Boats, and Basketball: Why Micky Arison Is Florida's Richest Person originally appeared on Fool.com.

Casey Kelly Barton has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.