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Marriott Tuesday outlined a temporary shift in its leadership structure while its chief executive, Arne Sorenson, seeks further treatment for his pancreatic cancer.
Sorenson will remain president and CEO of the company while he undergoes more aggressive treatment. He was first diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2019.
“Since my diagnosis, I’ve been working with a great medical team at Johns Hopkins to treat this cancer,” Sorenson said in a statement. “While I have worked throughout my treatment to date and plan to remain as engaged in the business as my health allows, the right thing to do for me, my family and the company is to focus on my health.”
Sorenson, who has been receiving treatment at Johns Hopkins Medicine, later indicated in a LinkedIn post that a recent scan showed his cancer was still present.
“While not the news anyone wants to hear, my doctors have come up with additional treatment protocols that will be demanding — this health battle needs my full attention,” Sorenson said.
Leadership responsibilities will be split between Stephanie Linnartz — Marriott’s group president of consumer operations, technology, and emerging businesses — and Tony Capuano — the company’s group president of global development, design, and operations services.
“I know Stephanie and Tony will work with Marriott’s strong executive team to continue to move the company forward,” Sorenson said. “I, along with my family and my medical team, remain optimistic about my prognosis and I plan to return full-time after the conclusion of my treatments.”
Linnartz, who joined the company in 1997, will oversee Marriott’s international lodging division as well as the company’s legal, human resources, communications, and public affairs sectors. Capuano, who has been with the company since 1995, will be in charge of Marriott’s U.S. and Canadian lodging division as well as the finance department.
Along with keeping his leadership posts, Sorenson will still be a member of the board of directors and “will stay involved in directing the company to the extent practical,” according to Marriott’s announcement.
“Arne has the full support of the board and the executive team as he takes this time to focus on his health, and our prayers are with him for a speedy recovery,” J.W. Marriott, Jr., executive chairman and chairman of the Marriott board, said in a statement. “Arne has built an excellent executive team. I have every confidence in Stephanie and Tony and the entire leadership team to continue to implement our strategy and to not miss a beat running day-to-day operations.”
Marriott declined to comment further when contacted by Skift.
Sorenson was first diagnosed with stage 2 pancreatic cancer nearly two years ago. He continued day-to-day operations while seeking treatment.
“They believe we have caught it early, that it is operable, and that the course of treatment is prudent,” he said on a 2019 investor call shortly after his diagnosis was made public. “With the support of an extraordinarily strong team of Marriott executives, we are going to soldier on.”
Sorenson has sporadically given updates to his health since his initial diagnosis. He underwent chemotherapy, radiation, immunotherapy and eventually surgical treatment.
When he appeared in an emotional video address to employees at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic last year, Sorenson noted some of his team were worried about the optics surrounding his shaved head — a normal part of cancer treatment.
“I feel good, and my team and I are 100 percent focused on overcoming the common crisis we face,” Sorenson said.
He continued the optimism Tuesday in his letter to Marriott employees.
“In the nearly two years since I shared my diagnosis with you, I have been sustained by your well wishes, your care and concern,” Sorenson said. “I asked you at that time to look forward with me. And I’m asking you to do that again. I, along with my family and my medical team, remain optimistic and I look forward to when I can return full-time.”
[UPDATE: This story has been updated since publication to include additional details of Sorenson’s cancer treatment, Marriott’s leadership shift, and comments from his letter to Marriott employees.]