Arison: Deal was no-brainer

Updated: July 20, 2004, 10:34 AM ET
Associated Press

MIAMI -- Miami Heat owner Micky Arison was traveling with his family in Cannes, France, when he learned his team had acquired Shaquille O'Neal.

"The final word came right around sundown," Arison said with a chuckle Friday. "So we had a spectacular fireworks display to celebrate."

There was a champagne toast, too. The addition of O'Neal instantly transforms the Heat into an NBA title threat, and Arison will drink to that.

Miami gave up three starters in the trade with the Los Angeles Lakers, but Arison described the deal as a no-brainer.

"If you offer me Shaquille O'Neal, I'm going to say yes," Arison said. "And I did."

The chairman and CEO of Carnival Corp. spoke by phone from Genoa, Italy. Because he'll remain in Europe next week on business for the world's largest cruise company, he'll miss O'Neal's introductory news conference Tuesday.

But even from afar, Arison compared the thrill of acquiring O'Neal to the launch of the Queen Mary 2 by Carnival subsidiary Cunard Line earlier this year. And the Heat owner is delighted with the enthusiastic fan response and brisk box-office business since news of the trade broke a week ago.

Arison reiterated that he plans to remain the owner of the franchise founded by his late father, despite a recent report that Michael Jordan was interested in buying a majority share of the Heat.

"The team's not for sale," Arison said. "We have been interested and will be interested in minority shareholders. That's not something, as far as I know, that Michael is interested in.

"I do not intend to give up control in any way. That's not a negotiable issue. I'm having more fun in the last three or four days than I've had in a number of years."

Team president Pat Riley still must do some free agent shopping to fill holes created by the trade. The Heat have said they've lost up to $30 million annually in recent years, and Arison hopes to avoid exceeding the payroll threshold that triggers the NBA luxury tax.

"But at the same time, we're completely committed to putting the pieces around Shaq to win a championship," Arison said.

"That's a balancing act. We're prepared to spend whatever the market will generate from the standpoint of revenue. We're looking hopefully in a good year to break even. What's clear from the past few days is the market is willing to help us. The response has been tremendous."


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press

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