Industry Mourns Passing of Marriott President and CEO Arne Sorenson

Arne Sorenson - Elliott O'Donovan Photography
Elliott O'Donovan Photography

On Tuesday, following Marriott International’s announcement of the passing of Arne Sorenson, president and CEO, on February 15, 2021, leaders from across the industry released statements mourning the loss and recognizing Sorenson’s impact on the industry.

In a statement released by Marriott, J.W. Marriott, Jr., executive chairman and chairman of the board, said: “Arne was an exceptional executive—but more than that—he was an exceptional human being. 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.”

In a message shared with American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) members, Chip Rogers, president and CEO of AHLA, and Mark Hoplamazian, president and CEO of Hyatt Hotels Corporation and AHLA Chair of the Board, made the following statement: “Today, it is with deep sorrow that the hotel community joins together to mourn the passing of a generational leader, Arne Sorensen. We offer our condolences to his family, team, and everyone whose life he touched during his more than 30 years at Marriott International. Arne was a visionary leader driven by passion for his people, the millions of associates around the world who worked for and with him, and by a desire to spread a love for travel. He was an icon in our industry, dedicated to improving the lodging experience for the guests we serve and the people who serve them.

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“Through his transformative leadership, he not only guided Marriott through many prosperous years but also helped steer our industry through some of the toughest economic times from 9/11, the Great Recession, and most recently the COVID pandemic. While Arne’s business accomplishments are apparent to all, his championing of social change made our entire industry better for everyone. Many will remember Arne as the first non-Marriott to serve as CEO of the iconic hotel brand, but Arne will be remembered most for his decency, generosity, and compassion.

“Arne’s battle against cancer embodied the qualities that made him such an exceptional human being—endless optimism, perseverance, and servant leadership. His touch on the hospitality industry will be felt for generations. His impact on the lives of all of us who knew him personally is profound. The world is a better place because of Arne Sorenson. Everyone at AHLA feels a numbing loss today and our hearts go out to his immediate family and his extended family at Marriott. His legacy will live on in all of us.”

Chris Nassetta, president and CEO, Hilton, made the following statement: “I am deeply saddened by the heartbreaking news of Arne Sorenson’s passing. He was an incredibly respected man, a leader in hospitality, and a devoted husband, father, and friend. 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. On behalf of everyone at Hilton, I want to extend my condolences to the Sorenson family, the thousands of Marriott associates around the world, and the countless people whose lives he has positively impacted over the years.”

Sébastien Bazin, chairman and CEO, Accor, issued the following statement: “I was extremely sad to hear of Arne’s passing earlier today. He was someone who I admired and respected on so many levels; a true leader and visionary. His business acumen was second to none, but beyond that, he was a remarkably empathetic man who cared deeply about our industry and the people in it.”

Geoff Ballotti, president and CEO, Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, said in a statement: “Our hearts today at Wyndham are broken with the passing of our dear friend and colleague Arne, who meant so much to all of us. We will keep Arne, Ruth, Astri, Esther, Lars, and Isaac in our prayers along with all of the Marriott family. God bless one of the greatest leaders we’ve ever been gifted to have lead our industry over the years on so many different levels. Arne will be missed in more ways than we will ever know.”

The NYU School of Professional Studies Jonathan M. Tisch Center of Hospitality also released a statement from Jonathan M. Tisch, conference chair, and Nicolas Graf, associate dean: “Arne was a long-time friend and supporter of the Jonathan M. Tisch Center of Hospitality and its Annual International Hospitality Industry Investment Conference. Revered and respected across the hospitality industry, he was the recipient of the Stephen W. Brener Silver Plate Award, which was bestowed upon him at the 2018 Hospitality Conference. Arne was a leader and a true innovator, who was responsible for Marriott’s sustained growth and for its role in addressing critical issues including diversity, equity and inclusion, and environmental sustainability. He was an exceptional executive, but he also was known for his incredible kindness and generosity. Arne was always willing to give of his time and understood the importance of the Tisch Center’s mission—educating the next generation of industry leaders. He was instrumental in making this happen through contributions made by Marriott, which supported funding for Tisch Center scholarships. We would like to extend our deepest condolences to his family and colleagues in this time of great loss. He will be sorely missed.”

AAHOA President and CEO Cecil P. Staton issued the following statement: “Arne Sorenson was a visionary hospitality executive, and we are deeply saddened by his sudden passing. As one of the first CEOs with whom I met after joining AAHOA, he was an approachable leader—always ready to listen, to learn, and to share his views and advice. He had a profound impact on Marriott and the broader hospitality industry and was a champion for equality and opportunity. AAHOA Members knew Arne as a huge supporter and advocate of the association, and he was a considerable presence at AAHOA’s conventions, conferences, and young professional events. Arne embodied the spirit of hospitality, and owners valued his accessibility, engagement, and passion for his work. As thousands of hoteliers and millions of workers struggled with the economic fallout of the pandemic, Arne could be counted on as a beacon of optimism despite the health challenges he faced. On behalf of AAHOA members, I offer our condolences to the Sorenson family, his colleagues at Marriott International, and every individual who was lucky enough to be impacted by Arne and his life’s work. The hospitality industry lost an invaluable leader yesterday, but we will all continue to benefit from the sizeable impact Arne made through his work, dedication, and significant contribution to our industry.”

Roger Dow, president and CEO, U.S. Travel Association, made the following statement on the passing of Arne Sorenson: “It is difficult to find words that express the depth of our sadness at the passing of Arne Sorenson, our dear friend, business leader, and travel advocate. This is a huge loss, first and foremost for Ruth and Arne’s wonderful family, but also for his many associates at Marriott International and those of us across the travel industry who had the pleasure of interacting with him. We frequently sought his wise counsel and collaborated to improve the travel experience. Arne always offered a vision that extended well beyond the lodging sector he so expertly represented.

“To me, Arne was more than a professional colleague with whom I shared a special Marriott bond, he was an ally, a trusted friend, and a partner. He also lent his considerable talents to U.S. Travel, particularly as chair of our CEO Roundtable, but also in countless other ways. I will miss him terribly.”

3 COMMENTS

  1. Arne was a terrific leader and a gem to work with and for. He treated us as peers and was always looking to improve the company, it’s businesses and our thousands of associates. Though he wasn’t a Marriott, he was Marriott—- God Bless his family and his soul.

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