Bill Marriott stepping down as CEO

J.W. “Bill” Marriott Jr. will be stepping down as CEO of Marriott International Inc., Bethesda, Maryland, to be replaced by Arne Sorenson, currently the company’s president and COO.

Although Marriott will soon be turning 80 years old, he is not retiring. Instead he will continue to work for the company as executive chairman and chairman of the board and plans on keeping a regular work schedule. The changes will become effective on March 31, 2012.

“I am not retiring,” Marriott said. “Arne and I will have executive staff meetings every month and regular reviews with operating and marketing people. Arne will be CEO and running the show, but I will be right at his side doing whatever I can to help in any way I possibly can.”

Sorenson will be the company’s third CEO and the first to not be a member of the Marriott family. Bill and his father J. Willard Marriott built up the hospitality behemoth from just a root beer stand that opened in 1927 in Washington, D.C.  

“I will simply do the best I can. I don’t have my name over the door and as a consequence I will not try to do it the way Bill has done it but I will do the best I possibly can,” Sorenson said. “It is a big company that is extremely well-run. I have a lot of advantages. One is that Bill will still be around and be a partner. Second, we have a fabulous leadership team, many with decades of experience with us.”

Sorenson said the leadership switch would not bring about drastic changes in the company’s management.

“I don’t think night and day it will be a different approach. We have been involved together in a lot of the decisions that have been made over the last number of years and there is nothing I anticipate doing differently,” Sorenson said.

Marriott said he had full confidence in Sorenson’s abilities to run the company he and his father had built.

“He [Sorenson] understands the culture of the company and lives the culture of the company. He has had 15 years of on-the-job performance and has done well at everything we have asked him to do. He is well-respected by Wall Street, our associates and senior management team,” Marriott said, adding that he did not expect a negative reaction in the stock market to news of his stepping down. “The market knows Arne so well. If we were bringing someone in from outside that wasn’t known I think there would be a reaction. But they know and respect Arne.”

Sorenson’s COO position will be filled by Robert McCarthy.

J.W. “Bill” Marriott Jr.
J.W. “Bill” Marriott Jr.
Arne Sorenson
Arne Sorenson