Source: CoStar Group
February 16, 2021
As news spread around the hotel industry of Marriott International President and CEO Arne Sorenson’s death, executives responded with shock and sadness for a man regarded as a “giant,” “a leader in hospitality” and a “gracious friend.”
Mit Shah, CEO and founder of Noble Investment Group, said he’d never go longer than about a month and a half without reaching out to Sorenson for some kind of advice, which more often than not extended beyond business.
“We were very close, and I felt a deep gratitude due to getting to have the personal relationship,” he said.
He noted Sorenson had advised him to sell the management arm of his company to Interstate Hotels & Resorts, had helped him set up a leadership speaker series and even gave him candid advice on how to get the most out of life as an “empty nester.”
“That was Arne,” Shah said. “He could move across the quadrants in the most natural caring way. I’ve had a day full of tears, and I can’t fathom just the fact that he’s not going to be with us to provide to many that kind of comfort, vision, care and inspiration. It’s so sad on so many levels.”
Shah said he takes some solace from the fact that Sorenson was able to spend his last days at his home surrounded by loved ones, but he admits that he somewhat selfishly mourns for the industry losing a source of leadership and hope at a point when it needs it the most.
Shah said one of his enduring memories of Sorenson will be the video he released to Marriott International employees around the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic when Sorenson, at a time of immense personal struggle, expressed a clear message of empathy and care to the company’s many associates who were affected both personally and professionally.
“I don’t know if anyone saw [that video]that didn’t feel like they were truly in the midst of somebody with incredible purpose, fight and vigor,” Shah said. “It inspired an entire industry. You looked at it and thought ‘This is what great leadership means. This is the true definition of humanity.’ … This is a man fighting for his life, and he’s focused on others. There’s an incredible selflessness about that.”
While many have described Sorenson as a titan of the hotel industry, Shah noted respect spanned to other parts of the business world. Various executives from different industries professed their admiration, he said.
“They all thought Arne was just best in class,” he said.
Cecil Staton, president and CEO, AAHOA: “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.”