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Truly an end of an era: Bill Marriott is why the world's largest hotel company exploded beyond the restaurant business into a global force in hospitality.

J.W. “Bill” Marriott, Jr., executive chairman and chairman of Marriott International’s board of directors, plans to retire in May after more than 60 years at the hotel company. 

Marriott’s board elected Bill’s son, David, to succeed his father as chairman, the company announced Monday. Bill started working at his family’s Hot Shoppes restaurant chain stapling invoices, washing dishes, and cooking burgers. But he played a pivotal role in expanding the company into the hotel giant Marriott is known for today. 

Hot Shoppes expanded to multiple locations on the East Coast and even had an airline catering division. The company was building its first hotel near Washington’s National Airport by the time Bill returned from the Navy to Washington in 1956, according to a 2007 profile in Washingtonian magazine. He convinced his father to let him head up the hotel business, which wasn’t a hard sell since the elder J.W. Marriott, Sr., reportedly once said, “Nothing good ever happens in a hotel.”

But the hotel industry was certainly good to Bill Marriott. He became president of his family’s company in 1964 and CEO in 1972. He held that position for 40 years until he stepped down in 2012 and handed the reigns of the top job over to the first non-Marriott in company history — Arne Sorenson, who passed away last year. Marriott CEO Anthony Capuano is now only the second person outside the namesake family to helm the company.

“On behalf of the board and the hundreds of thousands of people who wear a Marriott name badge around the world, I’d like to thank Mr. Marriott for his outstanding leadership throughout his tenure with the company. He is truly an industry icon,” Capuano said in a statement. “I’d also like to congratulate David Marriott on being elected Chairman of the Board. Not only does he have tremendous operational experience from his career at Marriott, but hospitality is in his DNA. I look forward to working alongside him for years to come.”

Marriott’s growth during Bill’s tenure was extraordinary.

“Who would have thought on that cold January day in 1957, just before Eisenhower’s inaugural, that we would have almost 3,000 hotels?” he said during the company’s 50th anniversary in 2007.

Fifteen years later and on the eve of Marriott’s fourth quarter earnings call, the number is closer to 8,000 hotels.

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Tags: executives, marriott

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