No. 13: Arne Sorenson
CEO, MARRIOTT INTERNATIONAL
Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson, who grew the company into the world’s largest hotel chain and steered it through a global pandemic that has been catastrophic for the travel industry, died February 15. He was 62.
J.W. Marriott Jr., the company’s executive chairman, said Sorenson loved every aspect of the hotel business and relished traveling and meeting employees around the world. Bethesda-based Marriott has 30 hotel brands, including Ritz-Carlton, Sheraton and Westin, and more than 7,000 properties worldwide.
But he also focused on local relationships. Montgomery County Executive Elrich called Sorenson a “pillar of strength in Montgomery County’s business community.”
Sorenson was the first Marriott CEO whose name was not Marriott and only the third to lead the company in its 93-year history.
He joined the company in 1996, leaving behind a partnership in a Washington law firm where he specialized in mergers and acquisitions. He rose to president and chief operating officer before he was named CEO in 2012.
Sorenson was impressed by the Marriott company when he first met Executive Chairman Bill Marriott in 1992 while representing the company in a lawsuit.
“It (joining the company) was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made,” Sorenson said in 2019 when he was honored as an Icon by The Daily Record.
After becoming Marriott’s top executive, he oversaw the $13 billion acquisition of Starwood Hotels in 2016. He pushed the interna-tional chain to become more sustainable while also trying to combat human trafficking. He advocated for gay rights and opposed Pres-ident Donald Trump’s 2017 ban on travel from majority Muslim countries.
In 2019, he was named CEO of the Year by Chief Executive magazine and was placed on Forbes’ list of America’s Most Innovative Leaders and Barron’s list of World’s Best CEOs.
“Arne was an exceptional executive – but more than that – he was an exceptional human being,” Marriott said following his death.