Who is Arne Sorenson - Marriott CEO died : Bio, Career and Personal Life?
Arne M. Sorenson. Photo: prnewswire

Arne M. Sorenson, the Minnesotan who led Marriott International for nearly a decade, has died at 62.

Sorenson became the first outsider chief executive of Marriott in 2012 and is best known for overseeing its 2016 purchase of Starwood Hotels and Resorts, which turned Marriott into the world's biggest hotel chain with 30 brands and more than 7,000 properties.

Early Life and Education

Sorenson was born in Tokyo on October 13, 1958, one of four children of Lutheran missionaries. His father was a Lutheran pastor in Japan at the time of his birth. His mother was a public school teacher.The family returned to the United States when he was aged 7. He grew up in St. Paul, Minnesota where he attended Murray High School.

He graduated from Luther College, Decorah, Iowa in 1980, with majors in business and religion, and proceeded to earn his law degree from the University of Minnesota in 1983, according to Startribune.

Personal life

Who is Arne Sorenson - Marriott CEO died : Bio, Career and Personal Life?
Photo: hoteliermagazine

Born in Tokyo, Japan, the son of a Lutheran preacher, Sorenson is married, and has four children. On May 3, 2019, he announced that he had a treatable form of stage two pancreatic cancer and is in treatment at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. Sorenson had surgery for pancreatic cancer in November 2019 but continued to run the company. He completed radiation treatment and immunotherapy earlier that year and underwent another round of chemotherapy post-surgery, Peoplepill noted.


Marriott President and Chief Executive

Arne M. Sorenson is president and chief executive officer of Marriott International, Inc. Mr. Sorenson presides over one of the world’s largest hospitality companies and some of the most iconic brands in travel. Mr. Sorenson has built his tenure on the bedrock of Marriott International’s core values: putting people first, pursuing excellence, acting with integrity, embracing change and serving our world.

Mr. Sorenson led the acquisition of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide in 2016, resulting in a dramatic expansion of Marriott’s ability to provide unparalleled guest experiences around the world. The company now has more than 7,500 properties across 132 countries and territories and 30 brands. The merger also created the travel industry’s largest customer-loyalty program, Marriott Bonvoy, which has more than 140 million members.

An outspoken corporate leader, Mr. Sorenson has advocated for environmental sustainability, human rights, and diversity and inclusion.

Mr. Sorenson joined Marriott in 1996 and held a number of positions before serving as president and chief operating officer. He was elected to Marriott’s Board of Directors in 2011. He became chief executive officer in 2012, making history as the first person to hold the post without the Marriott family name.

Under his tenure, Marriott International has been recognized extensively, including by Fortune in 2020 as one of the World’s Most Admired Companies and DiversityInc as one of the Top 50 Companies for Diversity. In 2019, Mr. Sorenson 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.

Mr. Sorenson is active on multiple boards. He joined the Microsoft board of directors in November 2017. He is also a member of the board of directors of the Business Roundtable, serving as chair of its Health and Retirement Committee, co-chair of its COVID-19 Taskforce, and as a member of its Special Committee on Racial Equity and Justice. He serves on the board of trustees for The Brookings Institution and the board of directors for Special Olympics and the Warrior-Scholar Project, Marriott News Center reported.

Arne M. Sorenson, the President and Chief Executive Officer of Marriott International, has been named 2019 Chief Executive of the Year by his peer CEOs.

"He's a global leader, a man with a conscience, a person who connects with his people," said Fred Hassan, the former Chairman of Bausch & Lomb and Partner at Warburg Pincus, and a member of this year's selection committee.

"I have tremendous respect for Arne Sorenson, for his global leadership and for his outstanding track record amid a very challenging marketplace," said Marillyn A. Hewson, the Chairman, President, and CEO of Lockheed Martin Corporation and 2018 CEO of the Year, who also served on the selection committee.

Since becoming CEO, Mr. Sorenson has led a vast expansion of the business, including the acquisition of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide in 2016. The company now has more than 7,000 properties across 130 countries and territories and 30 brands. An outspoken corporate leader, he has advocated for environmental sustainability, a more open, safe, and inclusive workplace, and a welcoming culture around the world, according to prnewswire.

Political Advocacy

Who is Arne Sorenson - Marriott CEO died : Bio, Career and Personal Life?
Photo: The Wall Street Journal

Sorenson is a registered Democrat but donated to Mitt Romney's 2012 election campaign.

He has led his company into advocating for LGBT rights. In 2016, he announced that he formally opposed Indiana's proposed Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and became one of many CEOs to ask for a full repeal of North Carolina's House Bill 2.

In November 2016, Sorenson wrote an open letter to President-elect Donald Trump, encouraging him to take a collaborative approach to governing; to not pursue retribution against election rival Hillary Clinton; to "minimize divisiveness around these areas of LGBT rights by letting people live their lives and by ensuring that they are treated equally in the public square;" to initiate a major infrastructure program, without "connecting it to the repatriation of foreign earnings or by tying it to some philosophy of privatization of historically government functions;" to "make sure our borders are secured as well as our airports" without "close America to travelers from around the world" by "roll out a global trusted traveler program to ensure that we focus our security resources on those who pose risk, not on the overwhelming majority who pose no risk;" "to adopt a transparent approach for future immigration" including steps "to ensure that these 11 million people [the illegal immigrant population of the United States] can help make America stronger by paying taxes, investing in the future and continuing to contribute to our communities;" "to attract and retain the best, brightest, most talented, hardest working people — wherever they come from;" and to enact "a dramatic simplification of our tax code that closes loopholes and unnecessary tax preferences, lowers tax rates to levels comparable to the rest of the industrialized world and removes market distortions as much as possible" enabling a move to "a territorial [tax] system — without losing revenues or increasing our budget deficit."

Sorenson has spoken out against President Trump's Executive Order 13769, a ban on travel from seven majority-Muslim countries, and its successors as potentially harmful to the U.S. tourism industry. He has also urged President Trump to improve relations with Cuba, including harnessing tourism as a strategic tool for this purpose, Bloomberg cited.


Who is Arne Sorenson - Marriott CEO died : Bio, Career and Personal Life?
Photo: diversityinc

Sorenson died of pancreatic cancer Monday. He stepped back from his full-time work earlier this month for more treatments of cancer, which was diagnosed in 2019.

Tributes poured in Tuesday from business and civic leaders. Airbnb founder and CEO Brian Chesky, whose company has posed a competitive challenge to hotels over the past decade, said Sorenson had always been helpful to him. "He will be missed," Chesky wrote on Twitter.

Mary Barra, chairwoman and chief executive of General Motors, tweeted, "He was a wonderful leader who led with empathy, integrity, and authenticity."

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 succeeded Marriott as CEO, he became just the third leader in company history. Marriott's father, J. Willard Marriott, started the firm in 1927 and led it until 1972.

One of his classmates at the U was his older sister; they received their degrees in 1983. "I've lost not only a dear brother but a dear friend," said his sister Mary Ranum, partner and former chairwoman of Fredrikson & Byron in Minneapolis.

"He was, like our father, able to connect with people in a way that reflected his concern and caring for them," Ranum said. "People are attracted to somebody like that. He had the skills that you need to be a leader in a complex business. All of that made him an outstanding leader."

In addition to his role at Marriott, Sorenson served on the boards of Microsoft Corp., the Brookings Institution, Business Roundtable and Special Olympics.

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