Sorenson was a dynamic force at Marriott.

By Stacey Leasca
February 16, 2021
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Arne Sorenson, the beloved CEO of Marriott International, died on Monday following a battle with pancreatic cancer, the company shared in a statement. He was 62 years old.

"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 the 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."

Arne M. Sorenson
Credit: Nora Tam/South China Morning Post via Getty

In 2012, Sorenson became the third-ever CEO in Marriott's history. Perhaps most importantly, he became the first CEO without the Marriott surname, the company explained.

Throughout his time at Marriott, Sorenson pushed the company toward future progress, overseeing the $13-billion acquisition of Starwood Hotels & Resorts, as well as overseeing its growth in inclusion, diversity, environmental sustainability, and human trafficking awareness. And, in recent months, he'd overseen the company's response to the coronavirus pandemic, ensuring new health and cleanliness practices were put in place to ensure the safety of staff members and guests.

In early February 2021, Sorenson made the announcement that he'd be dialing back his work as CEO to focus on his treatment. Since then, the CEO role has been shared by Marriott executives Stephanie Linnartz and Tony Capuano. According to the company, it will appoint a new CEO in the coming weeks.

Beyond working as the CEO, Sorenson was also an avid traveler himself. In 2017, he shared a few pieces of travel advice that all globetrotters can live by.

"I think getting the natural light to work, particularly when you're in a different time zone, is really important," he shared about the importance of flicking back the shades when you enter a new hotel room. "Get immediately on that schedule as opposed to giving in to the exhaustion and sleep during the day because then you'll never get there."

And, like many frequent flyers, Sorenson only traveled with a soft-sided carry-on and "almost never" checked a bag. The one old-school thing he did? Carry a newspaper on board each flight.

"I still read paper, which is an unusual thing," he said. "Some of the news, I get on my tablet, but an awful lot of the books I read — and I like to read a lot — are paper."

A force in the travel world, Sorenson will be missed dearly, including at Travel + Leisure. "This is an incredibly sad day for the hospitality industry," said Jacqui Gifford, editor in chief. "Arne was a passionate — and compassionate — advocate for travel, who took Marriott International to new heights. He will be sorely missed by his colleagues around the world. Our thoughts are with his family."