Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson, whose claim to fame was creating the world's biggest hotel chain, has died at age 62 from pancreatic cancer, reports Reuters. Sorenson, who was the first person from outside the Marriott family to run the company, engineered the $13 billion purchase of Starwood Hotels and Resorts in 2016, per NBC News. The deal made Marriott the biggest hotel operator in the world, with operations in 110-plus countries, notes the Wall Street Journal. Sorenson was diagnosed with cancer in 2019 but continued in his role. Last year, he won praise for his honest, state-of-the-pandemic address to employees, one in which he shrugged off suggestions to cover his baldness caused by chemo treatments.
"Arne was an exceptional executive—but more than that, he was an exceptional human being," said Marriott Executive Chairman JW Marriott in a statement, per NBC. "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. We will miss Arne deeply." Sorenson became CEO in 2012, and the company's shares grew 242% during his tenure, even with the pandemic-caused downturn of the last year. Marriott plans to announce a new CEO in the next two weeks. (One black eye during Sorenson's tenure: a massive data breach at Starwood hotels.)