Royal Caribbean Group — parent of Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises, and Silversea — announced today that its longtime CEO Richard Fain is retiring from his position.
After more than three decades as the leader of the cruise giant, Fain is set to step down on January 3, 2022. He is set to be replaced by current Chief Financial Officer Jason Liberty. Fain will continue as Chairman of the Board of Directors for Royal Caribbean Group.
Mr. Fain has been without a doubt one of the most influential leaders in cruising during his tenure. Under his watch, the company transformed from a single line with five ships to multiple brands with 60 ships (and another 13 ordered). As well, the cruise lines in its portfolio have transformed sailing with innovation after innovation.
For instance, Royal Caribbean International now has the five largest ships in the world with its lineup of Oasis-class vessels. In addition, entertainment, dining, and activities on its cruise ships have all been invented — and reinvented — during his role as CEO. Today you can surf a standing wave, ice skate, eat any sort of cuisine you can imagine, and watch Broadway-quality performances right on the ship.
In short, the company under Fain’s watch has turned cruise ships from a method to get you to your destination to becoming the destination itself.
But Fain arguably faced his biggest challenge during the global pandemic that halted cruising in 2020. During that time the company had to not only navigate how to maintain the business without ships sailing, but also how to return to sailing and instill confidence in passengers that it could do so safely.
To do that, Fain and Royal Caribbean Group partnered with Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings to create the Healthy Sail Panel — a group of health experts who became a driving force of recommendations for ships to sail while limiting any virus spread.
In fact, Celebrity Cruises turned out to be the first ship from any line to return to sailing from the United States in June 2021, and since then, the number of ships sailing has continued to build. In total, the company expects around one million passengers through the end of this year.
“Richard has been a visionary leader, who has made innumerable and remarkable contributions to our company and our industry,” said Bill Kimsey, lead director of the Royal Caribbean Group board. “Most recently, his stewardship during the COVID pandemic marks him as one of the great CEOs of his generation. The cruising community and all of us in the company owe him a debt of gratitude.”
So why depart now, just as ships are getting back to sailing and brighter days seem ahead? With the return, Fain says that the positive outlook is precisely why it is a good time to step down.
“Given the great depth and breadth of our leadership, and the positive outlook for our business, this is the appropriate time to step aside and have Jason [Liberty] take over,” Fain said. “He is a highly versatile and strategic leader, who has been integral to all aspects of the company’s accomplishments and performance.”
New CEO Jason Liberty first began with Royal Caribbean more than 15 years ago. During that time, he held several roles, before being tapped as the CFO in 2013. During the cruise shutdown, he was also instrumental in organizing $12 billion in financing to see the company through the crisis.
“Our success as a business has relied heavily on our culture and on the values we hold dear,” said Fain. “Jason epitomizes those values, and I know he will work to build on them in this everchanging world. I couldn’t be happier to have such a superbly qualified and principled leader succeed me as CEO. Jason will lead the Group to new heights.”