Arne Sorenson
Sorenson in 2016
Arne Morris Sorenson

(1958-10-13)October 13, 1958
Tokyo, Japan
DiedFebruary 15, 2021(2021-02-15) (aged 62)
EducationLuther College (BA)
University of Minnesota (JD)
  • Business executive
  • attorney
Political partyDemocratic
SpouseRuth Christenson

Arne Morris Sorenson (October 13, 1958 – February 15, 2021) was an American lawyer and hotel executive who served as the president and chief executive officer of Marriott International from 2012 until his death in 2021. He was a graduate of Luther College in Iowa, and the University of Minnesota Law School. He previously practiced law in Washington, D.C., with Latham and Watkins, specializing in mergers and acquisitions litigation. He joined Marriott in 1996 where he served in increasingly senior management roles before being promoted to chief executive.

He was also a member of the board of directors of Microsoft Corporation and Walmart, as well as a trustee of the Brookings Institution.

Early life and education

Sorenson was born in Tokyo on October 13, 1958. His father, Morris "Bo" Sorenson, Jr., was a Lutheran pastor in Japan at the time of his birth.[1] His mother, Dorothy (Austin), was a public school teacher.[2][3][4] The family returned to the United States when he was seven. He grew up in Saint Paul, Minnesota. He graduated from Luther College in Decorah, Iowa in 1980, with majors in business and religion, and proceeded to earn his J.D. degree from the University of Minnesota Law School in 1983.[5][6][7]


Sorenson started his career working with the Washington, D.C. based law firm Latham & Watkins, where he went on to become a partner, specializing in mergers and acquisitions.[8][5] One of his clients during this time included Marriott International.[5]

Sorenson joined Marriott International as an associate general counsel in 1996.[5] He went on to become a senior vice president focusing on business development, as well as mergers and acquisitions. During this period, he handled the company's $1 billion acquisition of Renaissance Hotels.[2] He later went on to become the chief financial officer, and then chief operating officer, before becoming the president and chief executive officer in 2012.[5][9][10] Upon the retirement of Bill Marriott who remained as executive chairman, Sorenson became the third CEO in company history and the first executive outside of the Marriott family to lead the company.[11][12][13]

As CEO of Marriott, one of the key decisions that Sorenson was known for was the $13 billion acquisition of Starwood Hotel & Resorts Worldwide, Inc., which made the company the largest global hotel chain with over 30 hospitality brands including Sheraton, W Hotels, Ritz-Carlton, Westin, among others, and held more than 1.4 million rooms globally.[5][2] The acquisition had the company beat a bid from Hyatt hotels, and a bid from a Chinese insurance company, Anbang Insurance.[14] The acquisition enabled the company to emerge as a dominant global player in the hospitality business with a presence in over 70 countries, and allowing for more favorable economics with providers including the likes of Expedia.[5]

Some of the other moves introduced by Sorenson as the head of the company including diversifying the brand portfolio to cater to a younger audience, including teaming up with independent hotels that provided a distinct experience.[5] He also had the company entering into the home-rental marketplace spurred by advances by new entrants like Airbnb.[15] Some of the challenges faced during his time included a security breach in 2018 that had compromised more than personal records including passport numbers, credit card details, and other personal information of over 300 million guests.[2] As a leader during the COVID-19 pandemic, he had initiated staff furloughs and retrenchments. He had notably mentioned in a video, that was released publicly, that he would not be taking his salary during the period.[2][16]

Sorenson also served as a director of the boards of Microsoft Corporation and Walmart as well as a member of the Special Olympics board. He was also associated with the Brookings Institution as a trustee.[5][17][18]

Political advocacy

Sorenson was a registered Democrat,[19] but donated to Mitt Romney's 2012 election campaign.[20] He had also advocated for LGBT rights and had opposed Indiana's proposed Religious Freedom Restoration Act.[21] He was one of a number of CEOs who had asked for a full repeal of North Carolina's House Bill 2.[22]

Sorenson spoke out against then-President Trump's Executive Order 13769, a ban on travel from seven majority-Muslim countries as potentially harmful to the U.S. tourism industry.[20] He also advocated for improved relations with Cuba, including harnessing tourism as a strategic tool for this purpose.[23][24]

Personal life

Sorenson met his future wife, Ruth Christenson, when he was studying at Luther College and Christenson was working at her family's ice cream shop in Decorah, Iowa. The couple married in 1984 and went on to have four children.[25]

During college, Sorenson's father sent him on a summer church mission in war-torn Beirut; he continued to be "driven by faith" throughout his life and career.[26]

Death and legacy

In 2019, it was announced that Sorenson was undergoing treatment for stage II pancreatic cancer at the Johns Hopkins Hospital. He continued to head the company during this period.[27][28] On February 2, 2021, the company announced he would take a reduction in work hours to allow for treatment and spending time with his family.[29] Although Sorenson had been described as in good health at that time, he unexpectedly died at his home in Washington, D.C., two weeks later on February 15, 2021, at age 62.[2] Sorenson was succeeded as Marriott CEO by Anthony Capuano.[30]

Considered an industry icon who was noted for a progressive, even "transformational" style of leadership; his legacy inspired the creation of the Arne Sorenson Social Impact Leadership Award by the American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA), the American Hotel & Lodging Foundation, and the BHN Group. The inaugural award is slated for the AHLA Foundation’s annual fundraising gala, "Night of a Thousand Stars", and "Americas Lodging Investment Summit" in 2021.[31]


This list is incomplete; you can help by adding missing items. (February 2021)

See also


  1. ^ Jenkins, Courtney (June 7, 2017). "Q&A with Arne Sorenson: Architect of Change". Hotelier Magazine. Retrieved October 11, 2019.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Smith, Harrison (February 16, 2021). "Arne Sorenson, CEO who grew Marriott into world's largest hotel chain, dies at 62". The Washington Post.((cite news)): CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  3. ^ Who's who in Religion. Marquis Who's Who. 1985. p. 366. ISBN 9780837916033.
  4. ^ "Obituary for Dorothy Austin Sorenson". Honsa Family Funeral Home.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i Hagerty, Craig Karmin and James R. (February 16, 2021). "Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson Dies at Age 62". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved February 17, 2021.
  6. ^ Lebowitz Rossi, Holly (November 11, 2014). "7 CEOs with notably devout religious beliefs". Fortune. Time. Retrieved June 27, 2016.
  7. ^ "Arne Sorenson ('83) Named New Marriott CEO". University of Minnesota. December 15, 2011.
  8. ^ "Arne Sorenson To Succeed Marriott Jr. As Marriott International CEO". RTTNews. December 13, 2011. Archived from the original on December 14, 2011.
  9. ^ "Arne Morris Sorenson". Bloomberg News. Archived from the original on November 13, 2016. Retrieved November 12, 2016.
  10. ^ Marriott, J. W. "Bill" Jr. (January 8, 2013). Without Reservations: How a Family Root Beer Stand Grew Into a Global Hotel Company. Diversion Books. ISBN 978-1-938120-74-9.
  11. ^ "Marriott CEO Passes Torch of Bethesda-based Headquarters - Bethesda, MD Patch". Archived from the original on March 21, 2012. Retrieved March 28, 2012.
  12. ^ "Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson to have cancer surgery". Retrieved April 29, 2020.
  13. ^ "Marriott News Center: Arne M. Sorenson". Marriott International. October 29, 2014. Archived from the original on February 25, 2012.
  14. ^ Miller, Greg Roumeliotis, Matthew (April 1, 2016). "China's Anbang abandons $14 billion bid to buy Starwood Hotels". Reuters. Retrieved February 17, 2021.
  15. ^ Karmin, Craig (April 29, 2019). "Marriott to Take On Airbnb in Booming Home-Rental Market". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved February 17, 2021.
  16. ^ "COVID-19: Marriott International CEO Arne Sorenson". Archived from the original on March 11, 2021. Retrieved February 17, 2021.
  17. ^ "Wal-Mart Board of Directors Nominates Two New Members". Corporate - US. Retrieved February 17, 2021.
  18. ^ "Arne Sorenson". Forbes. Retrieved January 18, 2015.
  19. ^ Rosenwald, Michael S. (March 16, 2009). "Marriott's Family Guy". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved April 13, 2016.
  20. ^ a b Shen, Lucinda (September 27, 2017). "This CEO Says Joe Biden Called Business Leaders 'a Bunch of Cowards'". Fortune Magazine. Retrieved October 5, 2017.
  21. ^ Staff, DiversityInc (March 31, 2015). "Marriott CEO Arne Sorensen: Indiana Law 'We Will Not Stand For It'". DiversityInc. Retrieved April 29, 2020.
  22. ^ "Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson blasts North Carolina over HB 2 - Gay Star News". Gay Star News. April 6, 2016. Retrieved April 24, 2016.
  23. ^ Reuters Staff (June 15, 2017). "Marriott CEO urges Trump to improve ties with Cuba". Reuters. Retrieved October 5, 2017. ((cite news)): |last1= has generic name (help)
  24. ^ "Marriott CEO urges Trump to improve ties with Cuba". Reuters. June 15, 2017. Retrieved April 29, 2020.
  25. ^ Alexandra Berzon (December 14, 2011). "Marriott CEO to Step Down". The Wall Street Journal.
  26. ^ Lebowitz Rossi, Holly (November 11, 2014). "7 CEOs with notably devout religious beliefs". Fortune. Retrieved August 28, 2021.
  27. ^ "Marriott CEO Sorenson Offers Update on Cancer Treatment". Skiff. November 5, 2019. Retrieved April 8, 2020.
  28. ^ Jeanne Sahadi (March 2, 2020). "When CEOs should disclose serious health problems". CNN. Retrieved April 29, 2020.
  29. ^ "Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson Scales Back Duties for Cancer Treatment". WSJ. February 2, 2021. Retrieved February 10, 2021.
  30. ^ "Marriott names Tony Capuano as fourth CEO in company history".
  31. ^ Baratti, Laurie (July 27, 2021). "Arne Sorenson Award Established To Recognize Social Impact Leadership". Retrieved August 28, 2021.[permanent dead link]
  32. ^ "2019 Awards". Maryland International Business Leadership Awards. Retrieved February 22, 2021.
  33. ^ Hougaard, Rasmus (April 23, 2019). "What The CEO Of 2019 Thinks About Caring For His People". Forbes. Retrieved June 27, 2019.
  34. ^ "Announcing the Great Place to Work CEO For All Leadership Awards". Retrieved March 4, 2020.
  35. ^ "Marriott International's Arne Sorenson Receives 2020 Out & Equal Ally Changemaker Award Recognizing Workplace Equality". Marriott International Newscenter (US). Retrieved February 22, 2021.
  36. ^ Caira, Rosanna (September 21, 2020). "Arne Sorenson to be Presented with Katie Taylor Economic Empowerment Award at the 2020 WITH Summit in Toronto". Hotelier Magazine. Retrieved February 22, 2021.
  37. ^ "Yale Chief Executive Leadership Institute Presents Arne M. Sorenson of Marriott International with the Legend in Leadership Award". Yale School of Management. September 23, 2020. Retrieved February 22, 2021.
  38. ^ Fox, Jene Tesse (August 11, 2021). "The Lodging Conference to honor Arne Sorenson with award". Questex. Retrieved August 28, 2021.