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New Marriott CEO: 'We are seeing green shoots'

Brian Sozzi
·Editor-at-Large
·2 min read
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New Marriott CEO Anthony Capuano has some big shoes to fill in the C-Suite of the lodging giant.

But he tells Yahoo Finance Live he is well-prepared and ready to go, in large part because of the experience gained working alongside mentor and former CEO Arne Sorenson, who unexpectedly died on Feb. 15 after an extended battle with pancreatic cancer. Sorenson's passing led to an immediate outpouring of well wishes and kind words from well-known leaders globally. The reaction underscores Sorenson's long-held good guy status in the business community and frankly, the world.

"It was a privilege to work with Arne," says Capuano, who was selected on Tuesday to lead Marriott into its next chapter.

Capuano joined Marriott in 1995, and rose the corporate ranks to become the chief development officer for the company. It has been under his watch that Marriott grew its properties from 3,200 to more than 7,600 globally, moved into the late innings of integrating the 2016 purchase of Starwood Hotels and cranked up development growth in China. More recently, Capuano had also been focusing on implementing strict cleaning protocols in Marriott's hotels during the COVID-19 pandemic.

It's now up to Capuano to position Marriott for the post-pandemic world. Doing so won't be a cake walk, simply when looking at the most recent quarterly results. Marriott's fourth quarter worldwide revenue per available room fell 64.1%. Adjusted earnings came in at 12 cents a share, down from $1.51 a share last year.

But he says "green shoots" are emerging in Marriott's business, which like others in the hotel industry has been hit hard during the pandemic.

"We are seeing green shoots in markets like the U.S., certainly led by leisure transient demand... we are seeing these green shoots in business transient demand as well, and that is quite encouraging," he says.

Marriott boasts $4.4 billion in net liquidity to ride the current environment out. It also has an impressive worldwide development pipeline of 2,900 properties equaling 498,000 rooms. So in other words, the company is situated well for a demand recovery — which is likely reflected in the stock price's 14% year-to-date gain.

Capuano says he plans to be a road warrior visiting Marriott hotels just like his mentor Sorenson as COVID-19 conditions permit. In the meantime, his first 100 days as CEO will be spent on virtual meetings with senior leadership, partners, general managers and business council members.

Brian Sozzi is an editor-at-large and anchor at Yahoo Finance. Follow Sozzi on Twitter @BrianSozzi and on LinkedIn.

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