Forbes

The Host With the Most

WITH HIS ACQUISITIO­N OF STARWOOD THREE YEARS AGO, ARNE SORENSON CREATED THE WORLD’S LARGEST HOTEL EMPIRE. GLOBALLY, 20% OF NEW HOTEL ROOMS BEING BUILT ARE NOW MARRIOTT PROPERTIES—AND SORENSON STILL THINKS HIS COMPANY ISN’T BIG ENOUGH.

- By Biz Carson

With his acquisitio­n of Starwood three years ago, Arne Sorenson created the world’s largest hotel empire. Globally, 20% of new hotel rooms being built are now Marriott properties—and Sorenson still thinks his company isn’t big enough.

ARNE SORENSON WAS EITHER OUT OF HIS MIND OR MAKING THE BEST MOVE OF HIS CAREER WHEN HE picked up the phone in October 2015 and dialed Bill Marriott. The octogenari­an patriarch of the hotel empire had anointed Sorenson as Marriott’s CEO just three years earlier, the first time someone from outside the family had led the 92-yearold firm. Now Sorenson was going to propose something crazy: Spend $13.6 billion to buy rival Starwood Hotels, which ran upscale chains like the W, St. Regis and Le Meridien. This at a time when Marriott’s market cap was just $20 billion and traditiona­l hotels were fighting a furious rearguard action against internet upstarts like Airbnb and Vrbo.

“It was obvious he was thinking, Oh, my God, are you kidding? A $13 billion deal?” Sorenson recalls. “Everything’s going

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