Marriott continues its near frantic growth spurt across the globe, says Arne M. Sorenson, the first non-family member to head Marriott International Inc.
At the Global Business Travel Association’s annual convention in August, Sorenson talked about the rapid pace of Marriott’s activities two years after the Bethesda, Md.-based company finalized its $13 billion acquisition of Starwood Hotels and Resorts.
“We’re opening a new room a little more frequently than once every 13 hours,” he told convention attendees. “I’m impressed by that statistic and also exhausted by that statistic.”
Marriott’s portfolio now includes more than 6,700 properties across 30 hotel brands spanning 130 countries and territories. In fiscal year 2017, the company reported revenues of more than $22 billion.
The hotelier isn’t shedding any of its brands, preferring instead to offer a range of brands for “different trip purposes, different lifestyles, different sensibilities,” Sorenson said. Overall, the company remains focused on “local experiences and luxury lifestyle.”
“We used to say we wanted Americans who travel abroad to have a hotel they could feel comfortable in no matter where they went, and that was Marriott,” he said. “That has changed – not that we don’t want them to be comfortable. But most of us, when we go to Cairo, want to know we’re in Cairo. We want to offer a real local experience that they can Instagram about and tell stories about.”
Sorenson joined Marriott in 1996, and became the third CEO in the company’s history in 2012 — and the first without the Marriott surname. Prior to that, Sorenson served as Marriott’s president and chief operating officer. He has held a number of positions, including executive vice president, chief financial officer, and president of Continental European Lodging, and was elected to Marriott’s board in 2011.
Sorenson, who began his career as a lawyer, in 2016 relayed his path to the top of the historically family-run hotelier, after representing Marriott as its outside counsel in the early 1990s.
“Bill Marriott called and asked me to come to the company, and I said I would, but not as a lawyer,” Sorenson told Surface magazine. “So my first job — more than 20 years ago — was to run mergers and acquisitions. I later became the CFO — a slightly weird move on Mr. Marriott’s part, as I didn’t have the background for it, but he said, ‘You’ve got a great team, use your judgment, and you’ll figure it out.’” I actually don’t think he could do that today.”
Sorenson’s road to the top was gradual and transparent, he said.
“And while I’m not a family member, everyone had a chance to think about this transition over for a few years,” Sorenson added. “By the time it happened, it was easy.”
He’s No. 161 on Chief Executive and RHR International’s CEO1000 Tracker, a ranking of the top 1,000 public/private companies.
Arne M. Sorenson, President & CEO, Marriott International, Inc.
Headquarters: Bethesda, MD
Education: Luther College (BA), University of Minnesota Law School (JD)
First joined company: 1996
Positions prior to being named CEO: President and COO
Named CEO: 2011