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Maryland-based Marriott CEO Arne M. Sorenson dies at 62

Marriott International announced Tuesday morning that Arne M. Sorenson, the company’s president and chief executive since 2012, has died. He was 62.

In May 2019, Sorenson said he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and earlier this month, the company announced that he would cut back his schedule to undergo more demanding medical treatment.

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The Bethesda-based hotel giant said in a news release that executives Stephanie Linnartz and Tony Capuano, who started overseeing the day-to-day operations of the corporation in early February, will continue to do so until the Marriott Board appoints a new CEO in the next two weeks.

“Arne was an exceptional executive — but more than that — he was an exceptional human being,” executive chairman J.W. Marriott, Jr. said in the release. “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.”

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(FILES) In this file photo taken on November 26, 2018, CEO of Marriott International, Arne Sorenson, speaks during a discussion with The Economic Club Global Initiative Program, in Washington, DC.
(FILES) In this file photo taken on November 26, 2018, CEO of Marriott International, Arne Sorenson, speaks during a discussion with The Economic Club Global Initiative Program, in Washington, DC. (ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / AFP/Getty Images)

Sorenson started his career as a lawyer at the Washington, D.C.-based firm Latham and Watkins, and met then-chief executive J.W. Marriott, Jr. while representing Marriott in a shareholder case. Four years later, he joined Marriott in 1996, quickly climbing the company’s ranks until he became the company’s third chief executive, and the first person outside of the Marriott family to run the business.

Sorenson’s tenure was notably marked by the $13.6 billion acquisition of Starwood Hotels & Resorts, a 2016 deal that added well-known brands such as St. Regis and Sheraton to Marriott’s portfolio and cemented its status as the world’s largest hotelier. His leadership led to a rapid international expansion that included acquisitions in Canada and South Africa, and he also oversaw the creation of boutique brands — such as Moxy Hotels, known for its casual bistros and large communal spaces — aimed at millennial travelers.

“We think we have about 730,000 people that wear our name badge every day,” Sorenson said during a 2019 speech. “What we aspire to is that every one of those associates, no matter how senior or junior their job is, deserves to be treated with the kind of dignity that every human being deserves. They deserve to be able to grow in their job if they want to grow in their job. They deserve to be able to take pride in their work. If they take pride in their work, they’re going to deliver something that’s even better for our guests and customers.”

Marriott got its start in 1927 as an A&W root beer franchise in Washington’s Columbia Heights neighborhood. The family-owned business soon added hot food to its menu and rebranded as Hot Shoppes. It wasn’t until 1957 that Marriott made its foray into the hotel industry, with the first motor hotel in Arlington.

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In the decades since, Marriott has grown to be an international powerhouse with a $41.9 billion market cap, more than 7,500 hotel and resort properties spanning 30 brands in 132 countries and territories. Once known for cookie-cutter hotels favored by business travelers, the company has expanded into boutique properties with local flair. Its brands range from budget chains such as Residence Inn and Courtyard by Marriott, to the high-end Ritz-Carlton and St. Regis.

For the quarter ending Sept. 30, 2020, Marriott reported $100 million in revenue, and despite the dip in revenue from the coronavirus pandemic’s impact on the hotel industry, the corporation prevails as one of the Washington region’s largest companies and employers. Marriott is scheduled to release its quarterly earnings Thursday.

The company’s stock dipped 0.2 percent to $129.24 per share Tuesday morning following the announcement. Shares are down about 10 percent from a year earlier.

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