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Arne Sorenson became the company's third CEO in 2012, and the first outside the Marriott family

By Rachel DeSantis
February 16, 2021 10:42 AM
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Arne Sorenson
Credit: Nora Tam/South China Morning Post via Getty

Marriott International's President and CEO Arne Sorenson died Monday, nearly two years after he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, the company announced on Tuesday.

"It is with profound sadness that Marriott International announces that Arne M. Sorenson, President and CEO, unexpectedly passed away on February 15, 2021," Marriott said in a statement.

Sorenson, 62, joined the company in 1996 and became its third CEO in 2012 — and the first not to have the Marriott last name.

A married father of four, he was diagnosed with stage 2 pancreatic cancer in May 2019, and earlier this month announced that he would be stepping back from overseeing the company full time in order to undergo a more rigorous cancer treatment.

"While I have worked throughout my treatment to date and plan to remain as engaged in the business as my health allows, the right thing to do for me, my family and the company is to focus on my health," Sorenson said in a statement on Feb. 2. "I, along with my family and my medical team, remain optimistic about my prognosis and I plan to return full-time after the conclusion of my treatments."

Sorenson was praised by the company as a "visionary leader," under whose direction Marriott was able to make the $13 billion acquisition of Starwood Hotels & Resorts. The company's statement also praised his progress on issues like diversity, equality and inclusion, environmental sustainability and human trafficking awareness.

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"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 in a statement. "Arne loved every aspect of this business and relished 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. But the roles he relished the most were as husband, father, brother and friend. 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."

Sorenson was a graduate of Luther College and the University of Minnesota Law School, and was a partner with the Washington, D.C. law firm Latham & Watkins before joining Marriott, according to his LinkedIn.

The company said it will likely appoint a new CEO within the next two weeks.