Marriot International – A Family Business First, a Family Business Forever

by Allen Esrock | Mar 14, 2023 | Celebrating Family Business

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Marriot International is the largest hotel chain in the world by its number of available rooms, With 30 brands, 7,642 properties, and 1,434,044 rooms and counting in 131 countries, they are a global conglomerate, a behemoth, and a dominant player in the world’s economy.  At its heart, Marriott is always a family business.

The Marriott Legacy

In 1927, John Willard Marriott and Alice Marriott opened a root beer stand in Washington D.C. The Marriott couple, as Mormon missionaries, were convinced that the good citizens of the city needed a cool drink in the humid summers. Not long after their root beer business, the couple expanded their enterprise into a chain of restaurants called Hot Shoppes. It became a public company known as Hot Shoppes Inc. in 1953.

Four years later, in June 1957, the Marriott Hotels legacy was born. Their very first hotel, the Twin Bridges Motor Hotel, was opened in Arlington, Virginia. The Key Bridge Marriott was opened in 1959 and is Marriott International’s longest operating hotel, up until today. In 1967,

Hot Shoppes Inc. was renamed Marriott Corporation. The Marriotts weren’t satisfied with their range of enterprise and took on building theme parks. Two were opened in 1976, California’s Great America and Six Flags Great America.

Marriott International

Marriott International Inc. was formed in 1993. It was when the Marriott Corporation was split into two companies: Marriott International Inc. and Host Marriott Corporation (now named Host Hotels & Resorts). The former franchises and manages the Marriott properties while the latter owns the properties.

The Marriott Corporation then proceeded to acquire many properties, including The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company in 1995; the Renaissance Hotels and Ramada brands from Chow Tai Fook Group and associate company, New World Development in 1997; the Canadian hotel chain Delta Hotels in 2015; and Elegant Hotels in 2019 among many other acquisitions, small and big.

All the while, they expanded their properties, built more hotels, and reshaped the entire Hospitality Industry. Marriott was also the first hotel company to offer online reservations in 1995, a great feat considering that the internet was still a strange concept to many at the time.

Bill Marriott Sr. and Alice Marriot

John Willard Marriott, also known as J. Willard and Bill by his colleagues and friends, was the forefather of the Marriott Legacy. Together with his wife, Alice Marriott, they opened the nine-stool root beer stand with $6,000 using the A&W Root Beer franchise in 1927, which then evolved into a restaurant chain as Hot Shoppes, and then eventually what would become a billion-dollar empire known today as Marriott International.

Bill Sr. was already an entrepreneur at a very young age and further nurtured his talents right before he finished university. The same year he launched A&W Root Beer stands in D.C., Alice Sheets married him and the couple would soon prove to be one of the most successful family business owners in history. For almost six decades after, J. Willard rarely rested — always preferring to expand, explore, renovate, and innovate.

Alice, on the other hand, initially expected that she would have very little to do with her husband’s endeavors. Alas, the family business would not have run as smoothly if the matriarch wasn’t involved. She did everything from bookkeeping to interior designing to becoming a tenured Board Member. She was an invaluable part of building the Marriott family business legacy.

In the 1960s, Alice fully supported Bill Marriott Jr.’s direction of steering the company toward the hospitality industry. When Bill Sr. was having a hard time letting go of his position as CEO of the company and handing over the baton to his son, it was Alice who convinced him with steady support and fervor.

Bill Marriott Jr. 

John Willard Marriott Jr., much like his father, dearly loved the Marriott company. Growing up in the family business, he served customers and managed the earliest business ventures of his parents, Hot Shoppes restaurant. He possessed both his father’s work ethic and his mother’s knack for analyzing business decisions.

Bill Jr. joined the company full-time in 1956 and got the full support of Bill Sr. and Alice to steer the family business in the best direction he thought possible. He took full management of the first Marriott Hotel, and not long after, became the president of the company in 1964. Not even a decade later, he was appointed as the CEO in 1972.

With his hands-on management style, Bill was able to build a culture of emphasizing the importance of Marriott’s people. With almost a million employees to the day, he has high regard for the value the company’s people have brought and continue to bring to the Marriott legacy. Bill served as the CEO and Chairman of the Board for 40 years before stepping down in 2022.

David Marriott

David S. Marriott is only the third Chairman of the Board in the company’s 95-year history, preceded by his father, J.W. Marriott, Jr. (Bill), and grandfather, J.W. Marriott. David joined Marriott International in 1999 and has held a number of operational roles during his 22-year career with the company.

Last week, David posted a LinkedIn blog where he discussed his family legacy, “My grandparents were true entrepreneurs. They saw an opportunity to own and operate a new business in a bustling capital city and were willing to take risks to realize their dreams. Just after their wedding day, they packed up their Model T Ford and made the 11-day trip from Utah to Washington, D.C., with high hopes for success.”

The Spirit of Service to Customers

Up until today, Marriott Inc.’s hotels all over the globe have been renowned for their excellent services and diversified properties that range from utterly luxurious to affordable yet splendid in terms of value for money. The family was built on the idea of serving customers and providing them with as much comfort as the business can offer. The root beer stands were put up to relieve the people of The Capital relief from the sweltering summer heat, after all, as J. Willard Sr.’s legacy would have it.

On its website, the corporation prides itself on its core values. One of which is putting their people first because, for them, when you take care of associates, they take care of the customers. Another one is holding themselves to the utmost standards of excellence in their industry; embracing change should it be needed in an ever-evolving market.

The hotel’s commitment to its social responsibilities is also commendable, with many charities and foundations under its belt. This includes the TakeCare Relief Fund, J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation, and the Marriott Bonvoy Charity, among many others they support.

With diversity at the forefront of its founding values, Marriott employs people of varying backgrounds, ethnicities, cultures, and has been dedicated to serving customers that are just as diverse as their workforce. On a global scale, Marriott has extended to global markets where they can reach local communities to create more job opportunities and extend their services to local customers, in true Marriott fashion.

As an ever-expanding global corporation that is worth billions of dollars, who would have thought that the iconic Mariott hotels started as a root beer stand in Washington because one man wanted to quench his fellow citizens’ thirst? As he passed on the family business to his son, his other children, and the succeeding generations of the Marriotts, the foundation of the company will and should always remain — service in the name of excellence.

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Allen Esrock is the Founder of NxtGen Nexus, a platform for the next generation of family business owners which is based on his experience of growing up in a family business. Prior to that he started Jitter Fingers, the first safe, social networking website for tween girls and their bffs with Jitter Finger clubs in 12+ countries and 250+ cities in the US.

About the Author

Allen Esrock is the Founder of NxtGen Nexus, a platform for the next generation of family business owners which is based on his experience of growing up in a family business. Prior to that he started Jitter Fingers, the first safe, social networking website for tween girls and their bffs with Jitter Finger clubs in 12+ countries and 250+ cities in the US.