Marriott Shareholders Like Starwood Deal, Sorenson Tells CNBC

Marriott International Inc. stockholders like the company’s pending deal to buy Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. even though shares fell Thursday after investors led by China’s Anbang Insurance Group Co. withdrew a competing bid, Marriott Chief Executive Officer Arne Sorenson told CNBC.

Anbang, which last year paid $1.95 billion for New York’s landmark Waldorf Astoria, abruptly dropped its $14 billion cash offer late Thursday afternoon, clearing the way for an acquisition by Marriott, which would create the world’s biggest hotel operator. Marriott shares fell 4.9 percent after the close of New York Stock Exchange trading. Sorenson blamed short sellers for the drop, and called it a “short-term” concern.

Starwood shareholders are scheduled to vote April 8 on Marriott’s cash-and-stock offer, valued at $77.94 a share, or $13.2 billion, based on Thursday’s closing price. The value excludes Starwood’s pending timeshare spinoff.

Marriott doesn’t intend to combine the companies’ competing brands, at least in the short term, Sorenson said. In many cases, contracts with hotel owners prevent operating companies from changing a brand name during the term of the agreement, he said.

Marriott’s Ritz Carlton and Starwood’s St. Regis are competitive luxury brands, but “there’s plenty of room for both,” he said on CNBC. The company will look for ways “to drive distinctions” between the two brands, seeking “product cues or service cues” that would clarify the differences to customers.

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