Today, Marriott International shared news of the death of Arne Sorenson, the hospitality giant’s president and CEO since 2012. The announcement shocked the industry, and a Marriott press release called it “unexpected.” Only two weeks earlier, on Feb. 2, the company announced Sorenson had temporarily reduced his duties to receive additional treatment for pancreatic cancer, a diagnosis he received in May 2019.
No details or explanation was given for the timing of Sorenson’s death.
Sorenson was only Marriott’s third CEO, and the first without the Marriott surname. During Sorenson’s tenure, “[he] steered Marriott to make significant progress on diversity, equity and inclusion, environmental sustainability and human trafficking awareness,” said Marriott.
During Sorenson’s tenure, growth was explosive, with key expansion milestones including acquisition of Starwood Hotels & Resorts in 2016, which made Marriott the world’s biggest hotel chain.
“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. “Arne loved every aspect of this business and relished time spent touring our hotels and meeting associates around the world.”
Twitter tributes were immediate and plentiful.
Typical was this reaction from Andrew Ross Sorkin, financial columnist for The New York Times: “He created the modern-day Marriott and acquired Starwood hotels. He also happened to be a very good guy.”
“A great man who believed that business is the greatest source for social change. I had the privilege of knowing this towering figure and watching what he did to help his team in good and hard times. I will miss him very much,” said Jim Cramer, host of Mad Money on CNBC.
“He ended his tenure as CEO of Marriott by forgoing his salary for 2020 to lessen the impact of Coronavirus on the company and staff. He will forever serve as an example for me personally,” tweeted gaming executive Mikael Pawlo.
When Sorenson stepped down from his full-time position, two Marriott executives, Stephanie Linnartz, group president, consumer operations, technology and emerging business; and Tony Capuano, group president, global development, design and operations services, took over shared responsibilities of his position. They will continue in these duties until the Marriott board appoints a new CEO, which is expected within two weeks.