Marriott picks veteran Capuano to steer it out of COVID-19 crisis

FILE PHOTO: A Marriott flag hangs at the entrance of the New York Marriott Downtown hotel in Manhattan, New York November 16, 2015. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

(Reuters) - Marriott International Inc on Tuesday named Tony Capuano as its chief executive officer, tasking the 25-year veteran of the world’s largest hotel chain with charting a path out of the industry’s worst crisis.

Capuano succeeds Arne Sorenson, who died last week after a battle with pancreatic cancer and during whose tenure Marriott struck a $12.2 billion deal to buy Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc.

Capuano, who most recently headed the company’s U.S. and Canada lodging business, takes the reins at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has decimated travel demand, pushing Marriott to its first full-year loss in more than a decade.

While hotel occupancy rates have recovered from the lows hit last year, the emergence of new variants of the coronavirus has cast a shadow on the recovery of the hospitality industry.

Analysts expect a wider rollout of COVID-19 vaccines later this year to first aid a rebound in leisure travel, leaving business travel-reliant hotel chains including Marriott and smaller rival Hilton Worldwide struggling for longer.

Marriott also named Stephanie Linnartz, group president, consumer operations, as its president.

“Tony has a deep appreciation for Marriott’s thousands of associates who ultimately deliver on our customer and brand promise and I know he will be a superb steward of our culture,” Executive Chairman JW Marriott, Jr said in a statement.

Reporting by Shreyasee Raj; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta, Anil D’Silva and Aditya Soni