Arne Sorenson, CEO of Marriott International for just over a year, speaks to Forbes about the storied history that lies behind him and the millennial, more tech-savvy future ahead of him. The founder of the hotel company was Bill Marriott, and he was CEO for 45 years. His son, Bill Marriott, Jr. succeeded him, and had company reins for 40 years. These facts alone must've made this a nerve-wracking, courageous move on Sorenson's part. He is the first non-family member to head the company.
The 54-year-old Sorenson has three primary challenges. The first is cultural: How does an outsider run a company that has been managed by one family for almost a century? The second is strategic: How does a system that has mastered American tastes and whims continue to win as its client base changes and as the company rapidly expands around the globe? And the third is financial. Had you spent $1,025 for 100 shares of Marriott when it went public in 1953, and reinvested dividends for the original company and the six spinoffs that ensued, your investment today would be worth $5.5 million. There’s a six-decade track record of 15%-plus annual returns. That’s a big number for a CEO relying on developers, and who has a stated goal of managing 1 million rooms in the next decade–a figure that would easily topple IHG, owner of Holiday Inn hotels, making Marriott the largest hotel-management company in the world.