J.W. "Bill" Marriott, Jr.

“The four most important words in the English language are 'What do you think?'" – Bill Marriott, Jr.

John Willard "Bill" Marriott, Jr. (March 25, 1932  - current) is an American businessman whose vision and leadership transformed the hospitality industry and grew Marriott International into one of the world’s largest lodging companies. His leadership spans more than 60 years during which he has taken Marriott from a family restaurant business to one of the world’s largest lodging companies with a portfolio of more than 30 brands, and 7,300+ properties across 134 countries and territories.
 

Born in Washington, D.C., Bill is the eldest son of Alice S. and J. Willard “J.W.” Marriott, a noted restaurant entrepreneur and the founder of Marriott International. Bill attended the Sidwell Friends School and St. Albans School in Washington, D.C. and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in banking and finance from the University of Utah. He served as an officer in the United States Navy, and is an lifelong, active member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

Bill grew up learning about the restaurant business by working for his father, “J.W.” Marriott, Sr. J.W. began his own successful business career by owning an A & W Root Beer stand in Washington, D.C., and later launching the Hot Shoppes restaurants and In-Flight Catering company that serviced airlines, and was the founder of Marriott Corporation.

Bill Marriott, Jr. graduated from the University of Utah in 1954 with a degree in banking and finance. He joined the Navy and worked as a ship’s supply officer aboard the U.S.S. Randolph from 1954-1956. While in the Navy, he proposed to Donna Garff, the daughter of a University of Utah professor.

Bill and Donna married in June 1955. That same year, the Hot Shoppes, Inc. restaurant company owned by Bill’s father J.W. Marriott, Sr., broke ground for their first motel. Located in Arlington, VA , it was to be called Twin Bridges due to its location. Bill joined Hot Shoppes, Inc. in 1956 as a sales manager.

When the Twin Bridges Motor Hotel opened in 1957, Bill became manager of the company’s lodging division. In 1959, Bill was named Vice President of Hotel Operations and company sales that year were $46 million, just about double the sales from 1955.

In 1964, the company changed its name to Marriott- Hot Shoppes, Inc., and at 32 years old, Bill was elected president and a member of the board of directors. In 1967, in celebration of their 40th anniversary, Marriott-Hot Shoppes, Inc. renamed itself Marriott Corporation, and in 1972 Bill became CEO.  In 1985, he was named Marriott Corporation chairman of the board.

During his tenure at Marriott, Bill introduced the practice of Revenue Management to the hotel industry, adapting and applying a yield-management practice utilized by the airline industry.

Regarded as an innovator in the lodging industry, Bill began shifting the company’s business model in the late 1970s from hotel ownership to property management and franchising. This strategic decision allowed the company to accelerate growth while also expanding its leadership position. This transformation culminated in the company’s split in 1993 into two distinct organizations: Marriott International, a hotel management and franchising company, headed by Bill, and Host Marriott Corporation, a hotel ownership company chaired by his younger brother, Richard “Dick” Marriott.

Throughout his more than 50 years as the hands-on leader of Marriott International, Bill amassed one of the greatest, diversified portfolios of lodging brands, ranging from limited service inns to luxury hotels and resorts.

For more than 40 years, Bill, Jr. was CEO and Chairman of the Board of Marriott International, growing the organization into one of the world’s largest lodging companies. In December 2011, Bill announced effective March 2012 Arne Sorenson would replace him as CEO. As of March 2012, Marriott is the executive chairman and chairman of the board of Marriott International.

In Sept 2017, to celebrate its 100th anniversary, Forbes Magazine produced a series of 100-second videos with the 100 greatest living business minds, including Bill Marriott Jr.

Watch the video here.

As of 2020, Marriott International operates and franchises hotels under 13 brand names: Marriott, JW Marriott, The Ritz-Carlton, EDITION, Autograph Collection, Renaissance, AC Hotels by Marriott, Residence Inn, Courtyard, TownePlace Suites, Fairfield Inn & Suites, SpringHill Suites and Bulgari. Marriott International also develops and operates vacation ownership resorts under the three brands: Marriott Vacation Club, The Ritz-Carlton Destination Club, and Grand Residences by Marriott. Marriott International licenses and manages a handful of whole-ownership residential brands, including The Ritz-Carlton Residences, JW Marriott Residences and Marriott Residences, and operates various short and long-term stay corporate housing operations for executives, and conference centers.

Bill and his wife Donna will celebrate their 65th wedding anniversary in June 2020. They have four children, 15 grandchildren, and 20+/- great-grandchildren.  His lifelong “spirit to serve” is demonstrated by the numerous foundation boards on which he continues to serve, and the Marriott family’s philanthropic efforts via the J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation (aka Marriott Foundation). The Marriott Foundation is the Marriott family's foundation and has no connection to Marriott International or Host Hotels & Resorts (formerly Host Marriott Corporation).

“Listen to your people and learn." – Bill Marriott, Jr.

Bill Marriott, Jr. graduated from the University of Utah in 1954 with a degree in banking and finance. He joined the Navy and worked as a ship’s supply officer aboard the U.S.S. Randolph from 1954-1956. While in the Navy, he proposed to Donna Garff, the daughter of a University of Utah professor.

Bill and Donna married in June 1955. That same year, the Hot Shoppes, Inc. restaurant company owned by Bill’s father J.W. Marriott, Sr., broke ground for their first motel. Located in Arlington, VA , it was to be called Twin Bridges due to its location, and would have 365 air-conditioned rooms, a Hot Shoppes restaurant, barber shop, convenience store, gas station, swimming pool, and recreation area. In the company’s annual report, it is billed as “The World’s Largest Motor Hotel Owned and Operated by Hot Shoppes, Inc.  Combining Motel Convenience with Hotel Luxury.”

Bill joined Hot Shoppes, Inc. in 1956 as a sales manager. When Twin Bridges motor hotel opened in 1957, Bill became manager of the company’s lodging division. Hot Shoppes, Inc. broke ground on a second hotel to be called Key Bridge Marriott in 1958.  When Key Bridge opened in 1959, Bill was named Vice President of Hotel Operations. Company sales that year were $46 million, just about double the sales from 1955. In 1960 and 1961, Hot Shoppes, Inc. opened a 3rd and 4th hotel under Bill’s leadership.

In 1962, instead of adding a 5th property, Bill’s lodging division focused on adding convention and exhibition space and guest rooms to their existing properties, all while recruiting experienced hotel managers from their competitors like Sheraton and Hilton to join their growing hospitality division team.  

In 1963, while a 5th hotel was under construction, Hot Shoppes, Inc. reorganized into six distinct operating divisions: service restaurants, cafeterias, motor hotels, airline catering, institutional food service, and manufacturing.

In 1964, the company changed its name to Marriott- Hot Shoppes, Inc., and at 32 years old, Bill was elected president and a member of the board of directors. In 1965 and 1966, a fifth (Atlanta Marriott) and sixth hotel (Saddle Brook, NJ) opened under Bill’s leadership, 

In 1967, in conjunction with the company’s 40th anniversary, Marriott-Hot Shoppes, Inc. changed its name to Marriott Corporation, and in 1972 Bill became CEO. 

In 1985, Bill Marriott, Jr. was named chairman of the board of Marriott Corporation.

During his tenure at Marriott, Bill introduced the practice of Revenue Management to the hotel industry, adapting and applying a yield-management practice utilized by the airline industry.

Regarded as an innovator in the lodging industry, Bill began shifting the company’s business model in the late 1970s from hotel ownership to property management and franchising. This strategic decision allowed the company to accelerate growth while also expanding its leadership position in the hospitality industry. This transformation culminated in the company’s split in 1993 into two distinct organizations: Marriott International, a hotel management and franchising company, headed by Bill, and Host Marriott Corporation, a hotel ownership company headed by his younger brother, Richard “Dick” Marriott.

“If customers are treated right, they'll come back." – Bill Marriott, Jr.

The Marriott company’s first foray into franchising was in the late 1960s when they announced that they would begin franchising Marriott hotels on a limited basis to be called Marriott Inns. Although their business plans were solid, the Marriott mindset was counterintuitive to the core strength of the franchising business model: having all properties appear to be part of a single, unified system. Bill and father J.W. Marriott, Sr. didn’t want the Marriott Inns to look anything like the non-franchised Marriott Hotels. By today’s franchising standards, their initial decision to physically and visually differentiate and distance the franchised from non-franchised properties is an odd one.

While testing the franchising waters in their lodging division, the company also applied the franchise business format in their restaurant division. Marriott acquired Big Boy restaurants in 1967, and Roy Rogers restaurants in 1968. For about 20 years, Marriott franchised both brands with varying degrees of success before eventually getting out of the restaurant business in the late 1980s. 

From the 1970s until the early 1990s, Marriott’s vast lodging growth was due primarily to building and selling hotels to investors and managing the properties rather than owning them.

During the global economic downturn of 1990-1991, Marriott Company announced that the lodging division would focus on franchising, conversions, and international markets for future growth rather than new construction.

In 1993, Marriott Company split into two companies, each maintaining separate boards of directors and administrative systems:

- Host Marriott Corporation retained the company-owned hotels and most of the company’s long-term debt, with Bill’s younger brother Richard becoming chairman

Marriott International (MI) became a management services company with Bill Marriott serving as president, CEO and chairman

Throughout 1990s, under Bill’s leadership, Marriott International created franchise-friendly lodging properties like Fairfield Inns and Suites, Courtyard by Marriott, and TownePlace Suites by Marriott, all of which were relatively easy for a franchisee to run compared to full-service hotels. These limited service properties were key drivers for Marriott’s room growth. 

Since 1997, the number of franchised hotels under the various Marriott brands has consistently exceeded the number of hotels owned or managed by Marriott itself. Having achieved great success in franchising limited service Marriott properties, the company moved forward with applying the franchising model to full service and luxury resort properties.

As of 2020, Marriott International, Inc. is the franchisor for more than 30 brands across 134 countries, and 7,300+ properties offering a range of luxury, premium, select and longer stay lodging experiences.

“I want our associates to know that there really is a guy named Marriott who cares about them." – Bill Marriott, Jr.

 In addition to transforming the Marriott family business into a global corporation during his tenure, Bill Marriott’s legacy includes:

Introducing Hotel Revenue Management concept to Hospitality Industry in 1990s

Revenue management overall has the primary goal of selling a product to a customer at the right time and for the right price. This “yield management” sales model was widely used by car rental agencies and the airline industry to optimize revenue gleaned from car rental and plane ticket prices. Under Bill’s leadership, Marriott International (MI) was one of the first players in the hospitality industry to draw large earnings by applying this concept to their business strategies.

Bill created a revenue management division within the company, and invested in automated revenue management systems that provided daily forecasts of demand, as well as make inventory recommendations for each of Marriott’s 100,000+ rooms.

Bill believed strongly in this system and often spoke at conferences about how systematic revenue management contributes millions to the company’s bottom line, and more importantly, educates people to manage their business more effectively. Throughout his career, Bill has maintained that when you focus on your bottom line, your company grows.

Hands-on Management 

Bill practiced his father J.W. Marriott, Sr.’s philosophy of management by walking around (“MBWA”) throughout his career. When the company expanded to hundreds of hotels in the 1980s, it’s been said that Bill spent an average of 180 days away from home per year, flying an average of 150,000 miles annually in order to maintain in-person contact with his managers and employees. One memorable Marriott hotel advertising campaign has Bill noting that there’s no Mr. Hyatt, Mr. Sheraton, or Mr. Ramada. This message point was Marriott’s way of letting their customers know that a Marriott family member cared about your Marriott guest experience. The practice of MBWA was embraced by Marriott managers around the world, and is still practiced today.

One of the 100 Greatest Living Business Minds

In Sept 2017, to celebrate its 100th anniversary, Forbes Magazine produced a series of 100-second videos with the 100 greatest living business minds, including Bill Marriott Jr. 

Watch the video here.

 

Books:

The Spirit to Serve Marriott’s Way by J.W. “Bill” Marriott, Jr. and Kathy Ann Brown (1997)

Without Reservations: How a Family Root Beer Stand Grew Into A Global Hotel Company by J.W. “Bill” Marriott, Jr. (2013)

Bill Marriott: Success Is Never Final by Dale Van Atta (2019)

 

VIDEO:

2017 Forbes.com video: Bill Marriott, Jr.  “100 seconds of Advice”

 

Websites |  Blogs  | OnLine Articles:

2007 Washingtonian.com article: Growing Up Marriott

2011 Washington Post article: Marriott CEO J.W. "Bill" Marriott, Jr. To Step Down

2013 New York Times interview: What Eisenhower Taught Me About Decision-Making

2014 Forbes.com article: How Bill Marriott's Putting Employees First Transformed A Family Root Beer Stand Into $14B Hotel Giant

2014: American Foundation for the Blind blog: Lessons from J.W. “Bill” Marriott on Leadership: Developing and Listening to People

2017 Hotelmanagement.net article: Bill Marriott: His Past, Future Hospitality and Wisest Choice He Ever Made