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Marriott CEO: Here’s Why We Did the $13.6 Billion Starwood Deal

In early 2015, Starwood Hotels and Resorts—the innovative Stamford, Conn. company known for the W, Westin, Sheraton, and St. Regis brands, among many others—put itself up for sale.

It was a rare moment in the hospitality industry. After all, it's not every day that a company with 1,200 properties entertains acquisition offers. After a long engagement, Marriott International ended up winning the race to absorb the company with a $13.6 billion bid. Speaking at the 2017 Great Place to Work conference in Chicago, CEO Arne Sorenson explained how the company got there. "We looked at it at first and we decided we were not interested," Sorenson said to Fortune senior editor Matt Heimer. "We thought it was a lot of work. We were performing extraordinarily well and this looked like a really big job and the economics didn't quite feel compelling enough. So we initially passed." But further consultation with tech travel partners—Expedia, Priceline, Google, Facebook—made it clear that there was more strategic importance to the deal than initially thought.

"The economics also got better because of the relative shift of the stock prices and nobody else had really stepped up to do the deal in terms that were compelling. So there was a window for us in late 2015 which was really more lucky than smart in some respects. But we decided we would jump at it." Clasping his hands in thought, Sorenson added: "Companies like this come for sale only every 10 years or longer. If you don't jump at them, forever you'll look back and say, well should we have done it? And so we jumped in."

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