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Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson (1958-2021): In Memoriam

Feb. 16, 2021 11:30 AM ETMarriott International, Inc. (MAR)
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  • Marriott announced the untimely and unexpected passing of the popular CEO in a press release this morning.
  • Sorenson, Marriott's one-time outside counsel, built the company on an asset-light franchise model, offering superior quality hotelier and hospitality standards with rigid franchisee standards.
  • As CEO since 2012, Sorenson managed the pandemic by building a robust balance sheet, prioritized spending on mission-critical services, and put off other plans.
  • When natural disaster struck Marriott hotels abroad, Sorenson ensured the safety, security, and rescue of the hotel guests.
  • I believe Sorenson to have been the best operational CEO in 20 years; a "Jack Welch", without the sophistry or ego. I once raised the notion that he could be the best Secretary of Commerce the US ever had. .

NEW YORK (February 16) - Marriott International, Inc. announced the passing of  Arne Sorenson, its CEO yesterday.  He was just 62 years old.

By World Travel & Tourism Council - Arne Sorenson, President & CEO, Marriott International, 

Having followed Marriott for many years, and having chatted with Sorenson at analyst meetings, I know well what an outstanding and visionary leader he was. I consider him to have been the best operational US CEO in 20 years.

With his expertise in real estate, hospitality, international business, global and domestic economics, and disaster recovery (when disaster struck Marriot hotels overseas Sorenson arranged safety, security, and rescue for his guests), I once even raised the notion with a senior Marriott executive  that he could be the best Secretary of Commerce the United States has ever had.

A masterful CEO deeply imbued with knowledge of both Marriott global business, the economy, and his industry, I saw Sorenson speak at a Marriott analysts meeting a few years ago, giving his presentation on stage, extemporaneously, without a podium,  with nothing more than some notes scribbled on the back of an envelope. It was an awesome performance, given the size and scope of Marriott's multiple brands, foreign operations, performance metrics and the like. Given the way most CEOs hog the Tele-Prompter, it was truly incredible.  

We first recommended the hospitality leader in February of 2016,in the early days of our writings here, when it was in the low 60s following a run up, then on a decline  in what, in retrospect, now somewhat resembles the start of a a "cup and handle" to the chartists.But we had followed the company since "forever" because, as a guest, my friends, colleagues, and I were always delighted by "The Marriott Way". In 40-odd years of business and personal travel, I have never, ever, been disappointed by the hotelier or any of its brands. 

From an investment perspective, only shorts need fear, in our view.  Arne Sorenson did everything well.  He assembled a top-notch executive team around him.  Knowing the survival rate for Pancreatic Cancer, I'd doubt that there is not a well-reasoned, pragmatic, succession plan decided by Sorenson himself. 

Mr. Sorenson was diagnosed Pancreatic Cancer in 2019. This horrible cancer is among the most insidious of all because it cannot be diagnosed early. It can linger with only minor symptoms that emulate routine illnesses, like flu and back ache. If you would like to help fight this insidious disease, please join us here in making a small contribution to the Lustgarten Foundation, the principal not-for-profit funding research to develop diagnostic tools and treatments for Pancreatic Cancer at this link.

RIP Arne Sorenson. "Ya done well", as they say where I came from.


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Analyst's Disclosure: I/we have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.

The views expressed, including the outcome of future events, are the opinions of the firm and its management only as of February 16, 2021, and will not be revised for events after this document was submitted to Seeking Alpha editors for publication. Statements herein do not represent, and should not be considered to be, investment advice. You should not use this article for that purpose. This article includes forward looking statements as to future events that may or may not develop as the writer opines. Before making any investment decision you should consult your own investment, business, legal, tax, and financial advisers. We associate with principals of Technometrica on survey work in some elements of our business.

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