Mr. Sorenson was the first person outside the Marriott family to lead the company when he became the chief executive in 2012 and was only the third to hold that title since Marriott’s founding in 1927.
During his tenure at the top, he led a worldwide expansion, including the $13 billion acquisition of Starwood Hotels & Resorts in 2015. The acquisition made Marriott the biggest hotel operator on the planet, with more than 7,500 properties across 132 countries and territories and 30 brands, including Courtyard, Ritz-Carlton, Westin, W Hotels and Sheraton. The merger also created the travel industry’s largest customer-loyalty program, Marriott Bonvoy, with more than 140 million members.
“Arne was an exceptional executive. But more than that, he was an exceptional human being,” J.W. Marriott Jr., the company’s executive chairman, 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,” Mr. Marriott added.
The coronavirus pandemic, which has taken a devastating toll on the hospitality industry, caused Marriott’s revenue to plunge. The drop in bookings had a more severe impact on the financial health of the business than the 2008 economic crisis and the Sept. 11 attacks, Mr. Sorenson said last year, and forced the chain to shutter hotels and furlough thousands of workers. “I have never had a more difficult moment than this one,” Mr. Sorenson said in a company video in which he announced the layoffs in March.
In May 2019, the hotel chain announced that Mr. Sorenson had cancer, and earlier this month it said he would be reducing his schedule because of more demanding treatment.
When Mr. Sorenson stepped back from full-time management, the company appointed two Marriott executives, Stephanie Linnartz and Tony Capuano, to temporarily fill the role. The company expects to appoint a new chief executive within two weeks.
Mr. Sorenson joined Marriott in 1996 and served in a number of roles before becoming president and chief operating officer. He was elected to Marriott’s board in 2011.
Mr. Sorenson was outspoken about environmental sustainability, human rights and diversity and inclusion. He was on the boards of Microsoft and the Special Olympics and was a trustee of the Brookings Institution.
Born in October 13, 1958 in Tokyo, Japan, Mr. Sorenson grew up in St. Paul, Minn. He graduated from Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, and the University of Minnesota Law School. Before joining Marriott, he was a partner with the law firm Latham & Watkins in Washington.
Mr. Sorenson is survived by his wife, Ruth, and four children.