RCL’s loss is diplomacy’s gain

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When Bernard Aronson’s country calls, as it has done several times, he serves.

So it was with mixed feelings of pride and regret that Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. announced on April 1 that Aronson – the company’s longest-serving outside director – decided he would not seek re-election at its annual shareholders meeting in May.

In February, President Barack Obama named Aronson as special envoy to the Colombian peace process, the latest role of several he has filled for Democratic and Republican administrations alike.

“With my recent government appointment, I have found it increasingly difficult to meet my board obligations and have therefore decided not to stand for re-election at the end of my term,” Aronson said of his decision. “Serving on the Royal Caribbean board has been a privilege and a joy.

“The culture of a company is its most valuable asset, and I know that the culture of excellence, service and ‘wow’ that Royal Caribbean embodies will continue under the board’s leadership.”

Aronson also has served the company as a member of the board’s compensation committee.

“Bernie has been an invaluable member of the board, and has a tremendous understanding of our company,” said RCL Chairman and CEO Richard D. Fain. “I want to thank him for the significant contributions he has made over the past 20 years. His advice and guidance will be missed and I wish him success in his new government assignment.”

Aronson, a co-founder and managing partner of the private equity firm ACON Investments, LLC, previously served as assistant secretary of state for inter-American affairs under Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton. After his tenure, from 1989 through 1993, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal, the State Department’s highest honor.

Before that service, Aronson worked at the Carter White House from 1977 to 1981 as special assistant and speechwriter for Vice President Walter Mondale.

In reporting on Aronson’s most recent government appointment, Reuters characterized it as a move “to play a more direct role in Colombia’s peace talks.”

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos had asked for such a move to help his government end the five-decades-long armed conflict with Marxist rebels from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia that has seen more than 220,000 people killed and millions of others displaced.

Peace talks have been taking place in Cuba.

In brief comments to reporters, Aronson said negotiators have made progress but tough issues remain.

“Now the parties must resolve them because windows for peace can close without warning and sometimes never reopen,” Aronson said. “The Colombian people are ready for peace.”