A huge merger in the international hotel industry caught attention in Norway on Tuesday, even though none of the hotel chains involved has a presence in Norway. The new top executive of the combined hotel empire, though, is a Norwegian-American.
Arne Sorenson, the son of missionaries whose family emigrated from Norway to Minnesota in the US, has been the boss of the large US-based Marriott International Inc hotel company for the past three years. Now he’ll be the chief executive of the combined Marriott-Starwood hotel group, with 5,500 hotels in more than 100 countries.
Starwood is best-known for its Westin, Sheraton, Le Meriden and W Hotels, among others. Marriott, in addition to the hotels under its own brand in different price categories, also operates and franchises the Ritz-Carlton, Renaissance, Courtyard and Fairfield Inn & Suites brands, among others. The merger is billed as creating the world’s largest hotel company, with Marriott paying a total of USD 12.2 billion for Starwood in the form of shares and cash. Sorenson, who was the first person outside the Marriott family to lead the Marriott hotel empire, will remain as president and CEO of the merged firm.
Newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) highlighted his Norwegian-American background. After spending his earliest years in Japan, his family came home to Minnesota and Sorenson studied at Luther College in Iowa and the University of Minnesota Law School. DN noted that Sorenson is one of the largest donors to the Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum in Decorah, Iowa.
Curiously, there are no Marriott hotels in Norway and with the exception of Radisson, most of the world’s major chains have never gained a foothold in Scandinavia, where local chains like Scandic and Thon tend to dominate.