Arne M. Sorenson, the Minnesotan who became the first outsider chief executive of Marriott International and made it the world’s biggest hotel chain, has died.
Sorenson, 62, died of pancreatic cancer Monday, the company announced this morning.
He stepped back from his full-time work earlier this month for more treatments of the cancer, which was diagnosed in 2019.
Sorenson took charge of Marriott in March 2012 and oversaw its $13 billion acquisition of Starwood Hotels and Resorts in 2016. That deal put Marriott the list of world’s biggest hotel chains, with over 1 million rooms. He also created boutique brand lines that were partly a response to the emergence of homestay competitors.
J.W. “Bill” Marriott, who led the Bethesda, Md.-based company from 1972 to 2012, called Sorenson an “exceptional executive, but more than that, he was an exceptional human being.”
“Arne loved every aspect of this business and relished time spent touring our hotels and meeting associates around the world,” Marriott said. “He had an uncanny ability to anticipate where the hospitality industry was headed and position Marriott for growth.”
Marriott hired Sorenson, then an attorney in Washington, to the company in 1996. Sorenson later became a senior executive in business development and then chief financial officer.
When Sorenson succeed Marriott as CEO, he became only the third leader of the company. Marriott’s father, J. Willard Marriott, started the firm in 1927 and led it until 1972.
Sorenson was born in Tokyo, Japan, one of four children of Lutheran missionaries. He grew up in St. Paul, where he attended Murray High School. He went to Luther College in Iowa, then earned a law degree at the University of Minnesota Law School and began his career at the Latham & Watkins law firm in Washington.
In addition to his role at Marriott, Sorenson served on the boards of Microsoft Corp., the Brookings Institution, Business Roundtable and Special Olympics.
Sorenson is survived by his wife Ruth and four children.
Marriott said it will appoint a new CEO in coming weeks. After Sorenson went on leave earlier this month, Stephanie Linnartz, group president, consumer operations, took leadership of the company’s lodging division, while Tony Capuano, group president for global development, took charge of the U.S. and Canada lodging business.
“Given the leadership of the Marriott family and of Arne, the executive bench at Marriott is arguably the strongest in the industry and will have the knowledge and leadership to carry on the Marriott way,” Macquarie Research analyst Chad Beynon said.
Reuters contributed to this report.
Evan Ramstad • 612-673-4241