Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson Has Cancer, Plans to Stay in Role

(Bloomberg) -- Marriott International Inc. Chief Executive Officer Arne Sorenson has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, one of the deadliest types of the disease, and plans to continue working while undergoing treatment.

Sorenson, 60, and will begin chemotherapy for the stage 2 cancer next week, followed by surgery toward the end of the year, the company said in a statement.

“The cancer was discovered early. It does not appear to have spread and the medical team -- and I -- are confident that we can realistically aim for a complete cure,” Sorenson said in a message to Marriott employees.

Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson Has Cancer, Plans to Stay in Role

An estimated 56,770 new cases of pancreatic cancer will be diagnosed in the U.S. and 45,750 people will die from the disease in 2019, according to the American Cancer Society. Unlike with other major types of cancer, there has been little progress in treating it, with the risk of death rising slightly in recent years.

Survival Rates

Sorenson’s cancer was caught early, which is unusual and works in his favor. Most pancreatic cancer isn’t detected until the disease has already spread throughout the body, making treatment difficult and leading to death within a year. The overall survival rate is less than 9 percent for the average patient, though that climbs to 12 percent to 34 percent, depending on how far the disease has progressed.

Marriott didn’t say what type of pancreatic cancer Sorenson has. The most common form are exocrine tumors, which are also the most deadly. Even the easier-to-treat cancers, called pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors, can kill, as seen with Apple founder Steve Jobs.

Sorenson rose through his company’s ranks to CEO in 2012, becoming the first non-family member to lead the company founded by J. Willard Marriott in 1927. In 2016, Sorenson completed the $13.6 billion acquisition of Starwood Hotels & Resorts, making Marriott the industry’s largest player.

Running a hotel with 7,000 properties in 130 countries is a grueling job requiring near-constant travel. Sorenson has said in interviews that he spends more than 200 nights a year on the road.

“We are anticipating that Arne will modify his travel schedule a bit, particularly when he is actively undergoing treatment,” Marriott spokeswoman Connie Kim said in an email. “That said, he is energized by his work and committed to continuing that work while also undergoing treatment.”

Marriott’s executive team includes Chief Financial Officer Leeny Oberg, Chief Development Officer Anthony Capuano and Chief Commercial Officer Stephanie Linnartz. J.W. Marriott Jr., 87 and known as Bill, is the company’s executive chairman.

Marriott’s shares climbed 0.8 percent to $138 at 9:32 a.m. New York time. They have increased 27 percent since the beginning of the year, roughly equal to the increase in the Bloomberg Americas Lodging Index over the same period.

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