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Marriott Names New CEO, President To Fill Sorenson's Shoes

Marriott International CEO Anthony Capuano and President Stephanie Linnartz

Marriott International has named replacements for the two leadership roles held by Arne Sorenson, who died last week after a battle with pancreatic cancer. 

The hotel giant's board of directors announced Tuesday it appointed Anthony Capuano as CEO and Stephanie Linnartz as president. 

The appointments both come from within the company. Capuano previously served as group president of global development, design and operations Services. Linnartz previously served as group president of consumer operations, technology and emerging businesses. 

The two executives were tapped to run day-to-day operations of the company on Feb. 2, when Marriott announced Sorenson would be stepping back from his full-time role to facilitate his cancer treatment. Sorenson died on Feb. 15. 

Capuano, who goes by Tony, was also appointed to the board of directors. He joined Marriott in 1995 on the company's Market Planning and Feasibility Team. He led Marriott's development efforts in the western U.S. and Canada from 1997 to 2005, and he then rose to lead all North American development before being named global chief development officer in 2009. 

During his 11 years leading the company's global development, Marriott grew its footprint from 3,200 properties to 7,600 properties. It also had a future development pipeline of 498,000 rooms as of Dec. 31, the company said.

“Tony has played a critical role in Marriott’s growth over the last decade,” Marriott Executive Chairman Bill Marriott said in a release. “He will be a terrific leader as we continue to advance our growth strategy while also navigating the market dynamics of the COVID-19 pandemic."

Linnartz joined Marriott in 1997, serving in several roles in Marriott's finance, sales and marketing departments before being named global chief commercial officer in 2013. She oversaw the integration of Marriott's and Starwood Hotels & Resorts' business systems and loyalty programs after the two firms merged in 2016. 

"Stephanie has a leadership track record and clear vision for how our core lodging business, travel platform initiatives and loyalty strategies can work together to accelerate growth,” Marriott said. “Her deep experience across our business will enable her to work seamlessly with our owners and franchisees, innovate for our guests and customers, and champion new opportunities for our associates."

Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson and Marriott Executive Chairman Bill Marriott

The two executives, in prepared statements, both mourned Sorenson’s death and said they hope to honor his memory by helping to move the company forward and execute its strategy. Capuano and Linnartz also spoke Thursday on the company’s quarterly earnings call, according to a Seeking Alpha transcript.

Linnartz told a story of accompanying Sorenson to the World Economic Forum in Davos, where he helped her develop her leadership skills through scheduled meetings and media interviews.  

“He believed I was ready, and in typical Arne fashion, he empowered me to grow,” Linnartz said. “He knew what was best for me and for the company. That’s the true leadership is believing in your team and helping your teammates believe in themselves.”  

Capuano told a story of Sorenson bringing his senior leadership team on an eight-day “whirlwind” trip around the world in 2016 after the Starwood merger.  

“He wanted to visit as many properties as we could to welcome our new associates and show them that the Marriott people-first culture was real,” Capuano said.  

Marriott reported a Q4 net loss of $164M, compared to a net income of $279M in Q4 2019. Its global revenue per available room, or RevPAR, last quarter was down 64.1% from Q4 2019. Full-year 2020 RevPAR was down 60% from the prior year, and its 2020 average occupancy of 35% was down from 73% in 2019.

“In 2020, occupancy and year-over-year RevPAR changes showed steady improvement from the trough in April through the summer and into the early fall,” Linnartz said on the earnings call. “However, with spikes in COVID cases in many markets around the world, we saw the global pace of recovery flattened in the fourth quarter and in the first few weeks of 2021.”  

Looking ahead, Linnartz said she is confident the hotel market will improve. But she said booking windows remain short, and it is difficult to predict the pace of the recovery.  

“While vaccines are slowly rolling out, the pace is too uncertain to be able to predict when occupancy will move meaningfully higher,” Linnartz said. “But as the year progresses, assuming wider distribution of effective vaccine, we are optimistic that the pace of recovery will pick up speed and accelerate throughout the year.”  

UPDATE, FEB. 23, 11:20 A.M. ET: This story has been updated to include comments from Capuano and Linnartz on Marriott's earnings call.