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Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson dies at age 62 after battle with pancreatic cancer

Sorenson, the third CEO in Marriott's history, stepped away from his management role in the company earlier this month just two years after his cancer diagnosis.
Credit: AP
FILE - In this Dec. 19, 2012, file photo, Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson speaks during a groundbreaking ceremony for a Marriott hotel in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Marriott says that Sorenson, the company's CEO and president, has been diagnosed with stage two pancreatic cancer. The hotel operator says Sorenson will remain in his role with the company while in treatment. (AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery, File)

BETHESDA, Md. — Arne Sorenson, president and CEO of Marriott International, has died after a battle with pancreatic cancer, the hotel announced on Tuesday. He was 62.

Sorenson -- the third CEO in Marriott's history -- stepped away from his management role in the company earlier this month just two years after the company revealed his cancer diagnosis.

“Arne was an exceptional executive – but more than that – he was an exceptional human being,” J.W. Marriott, Jr., executive chairman and chairman of the board, said. "On behalf of the Board and Marriott’s hundreds of thousands of associates around the world, we extend our heartfelt condolences to Arne’s wife and four children. We share your heartbreak, and we will miss Arne deeply.” 

Known for his leadership on difficult national and global issues, Sorenson steered Marriott to make significant progress on diversity, equity and inclusion, environmental sustainability and human trafficking awareness, the company said in a release announcing his death.

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Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan released a statement on Sorenson’s passing earlier Tuesday:

“Arne Sorenson was a true visionary who did tremendous things for Marriott and the State of Maryland. In 2019, I had the honor of awarding Arne with the Governor’s International Leadership Award for all of his work and contributions to the community. It was only weeks later when we learned that he had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Even as he fought this battle throughout 2020, Arne agreed to be part of our Maryland Coronavirus Recovery Task Force, where he was characteristically generous with his time and insight about safely reopening our state.

Arne was such an incredible guy, and I was lucky enough to call him a friend. On behalf of all Marylanders, the First Lady and I extend our deepest condolences to the Sorenson family, and to the entire Marriott organization.”

When Sorenson stepped back from his role, two executives were tapped to fill the management role in his absence. Consumer Operations Chief Stephanie Linnartz and Global Development Head Tony Capuano will continue serving in the management role until the board appoints a new CEO, which is expected within two weeks, the company said.

Sorenson joined the Bethesda, Maryland, 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.

After becoming Marriott’s top executive, he oversaw the $13 billion acquisition of Starwood Hotels in 2016. He pushed the international chain to become more sustainable while also trying to combat human trafficking. He advocated for gay rights and opposed President Donald Trump’s 2017 ban on travel from majority Muslim countries

Even at the depths of the coronavirus pandemic, when Marriott’s revenue plunged more than 70%, Sorenson remained optimistic.

“The fact of the matter is, people love to travel. They love to travel for themselves personally and they love to travel for work,” Sorenson said in November. “It’s often the most interesting and it’s the place they’re going to learn the most.”

Sorenson is survived by his wife, Ruth, and four adult children. 

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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