January 28, 2012 / 6:40 AM / in 6 years

Carnival Corp's Arison at courtside for Heat game

MIAMI (Reuters) - Carnival Corp Chairman and Chief Executive Micky Arison on Friday made what was believed to be his first public appearance since an ocean liner belonging to one of his Miami-based company’s subsidiaries ran aground and capsized off the coast of Italy two weeks ago.

The 62-year-old billionaire sat courtside at the American Airlines Arena on Miami’s waterfront to watch an NBA basketball game between the New York Knicks and the star-studded Miami Heat team, which he owns along with roughly half of the global cruise line industry.

Arison has been heavily criticized in media reports for failing to put in an appearance at the site of the accident, as bodies were still being pulled from the wrecked ship operated by Carnival unit Costa Cruises.

But the “invisible” CEO, as he was dubbed in one report, looked cheerful at times and very calm, as he watched the Heat beat the Knicks from his courtside perch behind a broadcast table.

Clad in a sport coat and open-necked shirt, Arison appeared to exchange few words with anyone and left the arena immediately after the game ended.

At least 16 bodies have been recovered since the massive Costa Concordia cruise liner, with more than 4,200 passengers and crew aboard, capsized after a gaping hole was torn into its hull.

The ship’s captain, Francesco Schettino, is under house arrest and has been widely blamed for the accident for steering too close to the Tuscan island’s shore.

Arison has expressed his condolences in statements issued since the Costa Concordia wreck and given personal assurances that all victims of the tragedy would be taken care of.

Reporting By Bob Sullivan; writing by Tom Brown; Editing by Eric Beech

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