Seatrade Cruise News is part of the Informa Markets Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Jason Liberty to succeed Richard Fain as Royal Caribbean CEO

Richarid Fain, left, to continue as chairman. CFO Jason Liberty, right, will take over as CEO
Richard Fain, whose innovations during more than 33 years as CEO of the Royal Caribbean Group helped shape the modern cruise industry, has decided to step down as CEO on Jan. 3.

CFO Jason Liberty, 46, will succeed him as CEO and join the board, which Fain will continue to chair.

The third-longest serving CEO among current S&P 500 leaders, Fain's storied career is defined by the innovations he championed involving every aspect of cruising — from revolutionary ship design to major sustainability efforts to the technologies and ground-breaking features that enriched the on-board experience for millions of passengers.

Transformational leader

Under Fain's leadership, the Royal Caribbean Group introduced new and distinctive ship categories, with a diverse range of amenities and experiences that transformed the nature of cruising. These transformational ships include Royal Caribbean International's Sovereign, Voyager and Oasis classes; Celebrity Cruises' Solstice and Edge classes; the upcoming Royal Caribbean International Icon class to be introduced in 2023; and Silversea Cruises' 'Project Evolution,' a hybrid-powered ship.

Fain, working with Liberty, will continue his involvement in the Group's ship construction program.

Liberty joined the Royal Caribbean Group in 2005 and served in several financial, strategic and operational roles before becoming CFO in 2013. His operational duties have expanded over the years and gone well beyond the responsibilities normally associated with a CFO.

He is also responsible for Silversea, the joint ventures with TUI Cruises and Hapag-Lloyd Cruises and the Group's strategy, technology, supply chain, port operations and legal functions.

Naftali Holtz to become CFO

Naftali Holtz will become CFO when Liberty assumes the CEO role. Holtz is currently SVP finance, responsible for corporate, capital and revenue planning and analysis, deployment planning, risk management and treasury.

He joined two years ago after a dozen years with Goldman Sachs, ultimately as managing director, head of lodging and leisure investment banking.

Guidance through the pandemic

Fain has steered the company through the global pandemic, and he was a driving force behind the creation of the Healthy Sail Panel.

'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 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.'

Fain said that he and the board had developed a careful succession planning process for when he decided the time was right to step down. 

'There are no words to express my admiration and appreciation to the people of the Royal Caribbean Group, who have been the real drivers of our success, and my profound appreciation for the support and guidance of the board of directors during good times and bad throughout this long period of sustained growth,' he said.

'The right time'

Fain added that with most of the Group's ships operating, a full return to cruising approaching and the brands under the leadership of exceptional CEOs, it was the right 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 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.'

Fain also said that Liberty and Holtz 'have done an exceptional job organizing over $12 billion of financing during this challenging period. They did so in a remarkably careful and methodical manner, which will serve us well in the years to come.'

'Superbly qualified and principled leader'

'Our success as a business has relied heavily on our culture and on the values we hold dear,' Fain continued. 'Jason epitomizes those values, and I know he will work to build on them in this ever-changing 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.'

Board's unanimous choice

Kimsey noted that Liberty has played a 'significant part in every major initiative the company has undertaken for many years, and he was instrumental in helping manage through the pandemic. The board enthusiastically and unanimously chose him to be the Royal Caribbean Group's next CEO.'


Liberty will receive a base salary of $1.2m, a target annual incentive of 200% of his base salary and target annual long-term equity incentive awards with a $7m grant value. Holtz will receive a base salary of $675,000, a target annual incentive of 100% of his base salary and target annual long-term equity incentive awards with a $1.4m grant value.

See also 'Cruise luminaries tell "What I've learned" from Richard Fain'