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While the biggest voice in the hotel world was absent from the industry’s recent round of investor calls, his legacy was widely discussed among some of his biggest competitors.
The CEOs of the world’s biggest hotel companies each reserved the beginning of their respective fourth quarter earnings calls over the last two weeks to pay respect to the late Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson, who died earlier this month after a nearly two-year battle with pancreatic cancer. Marriott leaders paid tribute with personal stories, and the company’s namesake family’s charitable foundation announced plans this week for a leadership foundation at Howard University in Sorenson’s honor.
But the leaders at the helm of some of Marriott’s biggest rivals, from Hilton to Accor, also shared stories of friendship, mentorship, and friendly competition with Sorenson. Here are some of those leader tributes, in their own words, which have been lightly edited for clarity.
Accor CEO Sebastien Bazin: “I just want to share with you how sad, and it’s probably not strong enough, how sad I am of Arne’s passing earlier this month. He was a very rare individual who really put his heart and soul into achieving his vision. He was a fierce competitor of Accor, but the one thing I remember of him for sure is the kindness of his heart.
“I had a privileged moment with Arne which I never shared with anyone. When I started at Accor seven years ago, I reached out to him. I did not know him at all and had asked if we could meet. We did a month after I jumped into the job in early September in Central Park for a couple of hours, walking alone in the park where he was teaching me everything about the industry. The only thing I can say today to all of you and the colleagues of Marriott and the ones of Accor’s is there is a profound sense of loss for me and for the industry.”
Hilton CEO Chris Nassetta: “To say I’m deeply saddened by that loss, it would be an understatement. As many of you know, I had the opportunity to work with Arne in a number of capacities throughout my career, including earlier on at Host [Hotels & Resorts, a lodging trust that was once the real estate arm of Marriott]. I think it’s very fair to say he was an exceptional leader, but also an incredible person and a great friend. Our industry is better because of him, and I am a better professional and a better person because of him.”
Hyatt CEO Mark Hoplamazian: “From the moment I joined the industry, Bill Marriott and Arne welcomed me with a deep generosity of spirit. They were quick to provide me their perspectives, and, when it was appropriate to join forces on behalf of the entire industry, Arne was always a steadfast partner. Most important to me, he was a kind and good person. I will miss him and his friendship dearly. He will live on in our hearts and through the work that we carry forward on behalf of the industry that he so loved.”
IHG Hotels & Resorts CEO Keith Barr: “Anyone who knew him or heard him speak will know how passionate he was about our industry and his company. He was an inspiring individual to so many people. It was a privilege to have known him, and it goes without saying that he will be greatly missed.”
“When he spoke, people wanted to listen, and when he led, people followed,” Barr wrote last week in a LinkedIn post. “That is the mark of a great leader and his legacy at Marriott speaks for itself, not just in how he consistently raised the bar to grow the company, but also in the way he championed progress on important social and environmental issues, and represented our industry with such grace in the best of times and in the most challenging of times.”