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Army veteran who turned Royal Caribbean into a multi-billion dollar company dies at 87

Matthew McNulty

Army veteran-turned-Royal Caribbean Cruise Line founder Edwin W. Stephan passed away on Friday at 87 years old after founding the company in 1969 and turning it into a multi-billion dollar enterprise, the company announced Saturday.

Stephan helped to pioneer the modern cruise industry as travelers know it today, making Miami the cruise capital of the world upon launching the first ship built for warm-water cruising in 1970. Under Stephan's leadership, the company became one of the world's top cruise lines, with six different brands and 63 ships operating on all seven continents and 77,000 employees worldwide.

Last year, the company posted $9.49 billion in revenue with profits of $1.82 billion, or $4,974,773 per day, according to cruise line-focused website Cruzely.

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"Ed was an inspiration and a great friend to many in the company. He was an honorable man who loved his family, his work, and his community," said Richard D. Fain, chairman and CEO of Royal Caribbean Cruises. "Our heartfelt condolences go out to Ed's loving wife, Helen, and the children he adored, Michael, Samantha, Gary, and Kristina. He will be deeply missed by all of us here, by his many friends, and by our community."

Stephan attended the University of Wisconsin before leaving to serve in the Korean War as an Army lieutenant, specializing in radar, field artillery and guided missiles. He received two Bronze Stars during his service.

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The Miami Herald reports that after returning from Korea, he vacationed in Miami, where he quickly fell in love with the Florida port city and helped turn it into the cruise line destination it has become.

Stephan served as Royal Caribbean's first president for 27 years before moving to vice chairman of the board of directors. He retired in 2003, according to Cruise Hive.

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