Arne M. Sorenson, president and CEO of Marriott International, passed away unexpectedly on Monday, February 15, the company said in an announcement. In May 2019, Marriott announced that Sorenson had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and on February 2, 2021, Sorenson shared that he would temporarily reduce his schedule to facilitate more demanding treatment.
Sorenson joined Marriott in 1996 as vice president and associate general counsel and quickly moved up the ranks, spending five years as EVP and CFO and then six years as EVP, CFO and president, continental European lodging. He was elected to Marriott’s board of directors in 2011 and became the third CEO in Marriott’s history a year later. He was the company’s first CEO without the Marriott surname. In 2017, he was awarded the International Hotel Investment Forum (IHIF) Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of his career and accomplishments.
During his tenure as CEO, Sorenson put the company on a strong growth trajectory that included the $13 billion acquisition of Starwood Hotels & Resorts. In 2017, following the acquisition, Sorenson spoke with Luxury Travel Advisor about the melding of the two companies, which made Marriott the largest hotel company in the world, with 30 brands and more than 5,700 hotels in 110 countries at the time. It now has more than 7,500 properties across 132 countries and territories.
According to Marriott, Sorenson steered the company to make significant progress on diversity, equity and inclusion, environmental sustainability and human trafficking awareness.
“Arne was an exceptional executive – but more than that – he was an exceptional human being,” said J.W. Marriott, Jr., executive chairman and chairman of the board, in the press announcement. “Arne loved every aspect of this business and relished time spent touring our hotels and meeting associates around the world. He had an uncanny ability to anticipate where the hospitality industry was headed and position Marriott for growth. But the roles he relished the most were as husband, father, brother and friend. On behalf of the Board and Marriott’s hundreds of thousands of associates around the world, we extend our heartfelt condolences to Arne’s wife and four children. We share your heartbreak, and we will miss Arne deeply.”
In a statement, U.S. Travel Association president and CEO Roger Dow said: “It is difficult to find words that express the depth of our sadness at the passing of Arne Sorenson, our dear friend, business leader and travel advocate.
“This is a huge loss, first and foremost for Ruth and Arne’s wonderful family, but also for his many associates at Marriott International and those of us across the travel industry who had the pleasure of interacting with him. We frequently sought his wise counsel and collaborated to improve the travel experience. Arne always offered a vision that extended well beyond the lodging sector he so expertly represented.
“To me, Arne was more than a professional colleague with whom I shared a special Marriott bond, he was an ally, a trusted friend and a partner. He also lent his considerable talents to U.S. Travel, particularly as chair of our CEO Roundtable, but also in countless other ways. I will miss him terribly."
When Sorenson stepped back from full-time management earlier in February, the company tapped two veteran Marriott executives, Stephanie Linnartz, group president, consumer operations, technology and emerging businesses, and Tony Capuano, group president, global development, design and operations services, to share responsibility for overseeing the day-to-day operations of the company’s business units and corporate functions, in addition to maintaining their current responsibilities. Linnartz and Capuano will continue in this capacity until the Marriott Board appoints a new CEO, which is expected to be within the next two weeks.