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Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson Dies At 62

Marriott International CEO Arne Sorenson, who died Feb. 15, 2021.

Marriott International CEO Arne Sorenson has died after a nearly two-year battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 62.

Sorenson, the third CEO in Marriott's history and the first from outside the Marriott family, passed away unexpectedly Monday, the firm announced Tuesday morning.   

Sorenson had stepped back from his full-time oversight of the company earlier this month to facilitate his cancer treatment. The company announced in May 2019 that he had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. 

The company said it expects to appoint a new CEO in the next two weeks. In the meantime, the firm will be led by Stephanie Linnartz and Tony Capuano, whom the board tapped to lead day-to-day operations when Sorenson stepped back earlier this month.

Sorenson joined Marriott in 1996 and took over in 2012 as president and CEO. He oversaw the firm's $13B acquisition of Starwood Hotels & Resorts, which cemented its status as the largest hotel chain in the world, and he helped the company navigate the unprecedented disruption to the hotel industry caused by the coronavirus pandemic. 

"Arne was an exceptional executive, but more than that — he was an exceptional human being," Marriott Executive Chairman Bill Marriott, Sorenson's predecessor, said in a statement. "Arne loved every aspect of this business and relished the time spent touring our hotels and meeting associates around the world. He had an uncanny ability to anticipate where the hospitality industry was headed and position Marriott for growth."

Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson and Marriott Executive Chairman Bill Marriott.

Several influential business executives and elected officials honored Sorenson in statements Tuesday morning.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan extended his condolence to the Sorenson family and the Marriott organization in a tweet. Marriott is based in Bethesda, where it is currently building out a new $600M headquarters project. 

"Arne Sorenson was a true visionary who did tremendous things for Marriott and the state of Maryland," Hogan said. 

Rep. Jamie Raskin, a Democratic congressman whose district includes Bethesda, said he was saddened to learn of Sorenson's death. 

"Arne was not only a brilliant business leader but a powerful force for good in Montgomery County," Raskin wrote in a Tweet.

Hilton CEO Chris Nassetta, in a statement tweeted by CNBC reporter Seema Mody, said he was deeply saddened to learn of Sorenson's death. 

"He was an incredibly respected man, a leader in hospitality, and a devoted husband, father and friend," Nassetta said in the statement. "It's been a true honor to work alongside him on behalf of our great industry for so many years, and I will miss him and the friendship we've built."

Pebblebrook Hotel Trust CEO Jon Bortz, in a emailed statement to Bisnow, said he worked closely with Sorenson in recent years through the American Hotel & Lodging Association and the Industry Real Estate Financing Advisory Council, and he described him as a "titan of our industry." 

"Arne was always incredibly articulate, soft-spoken, respectful, thoughtful and insightful," Bortz wrote in the statement. "He genuinely cared for everyone he did business with and interacted with personally. And he always tried to bring everyone together. We will miss his leadership, his positive attitude, and his caring personality.”