J. Willard Marriott Jr.

Chairman and chief executive officer, Marriott International

Nationality: American.

Born: March 25, 1932, in Washington, D.C.

Education: University of Utah, BS, 1954.

Family: Son of John Willard (the founder of Hot Shoppes and its successor, Marriott Corporation) and Alice Sheets (a civic leader); married Donna Garff, 1955; children: four.

Career: Hot Shoppes, Inc., 1959–1964, vice president of hotel operations; 1964, executive vice president; Marriott–Hot Shoppes, Inc., 1964–1967, president; Marriott Corporation, 1967–1972, president, 1972–1985, CEO and president; Marriott International, 1985–1997, chairman, CEO, and president; 1997–, chairman and CEO.

Awards: Business Leader of the Year, Georgetown University, School of Business Administration, 1984; Service Above Self Award, Rotary Club at JFK International Airport, 1985; American Manager of the Year, National Management Association, 1985; Golden Chain Award, Nation's Restaurant News , 1985; Inductee, Hall of Fame, Consumer Digest , 1986; Citizen of the Year, Boy Scouts of America, 1986; Restaurant Business Leadership Award, Restaurant Business , 1986; Gold Plate, American Academy of Achievement, 1986; Inductee, Hall of Fame, Hotel and Motel Association, 1986; Inductee, Hall of Fame, Culinary Institute of America, 1987; Hospitality Executive of the Year, Pennsylvania State University, 1987; Silver Plate, Lodging Hospitality , 1988; Executive Officer of the Year, Chief Executive Officer , 1988; Signature Award, California Chapter, National Multiple Sclerosis, 1988; Good Scout Award, Boy Scouts of America Greater New York Council, 1990; Commitment to Excellence Award, Suburban Hospital, 1993; Silver Plate, International Foodservice Manufacturers Association, 1993; Inductee, Hall of Honor, Hospitality Industry, 1998.

Publications: The Spirit to Serve: Marriott's Way (with Kathi Ann Brown), 1997.

Address: Marriott International, Corporate Headquarters,

J. Willard Marriott Jr. AP/Wide World Photos.
J. Willard Marriott Jr.
AP/Wide World Photos

Marriott Drive, Washington, D.C. 20058-0001; http://www.marriott.com.

■ J. Willard Marriott Jr. was born into, raised by, and worked his way up through the ranks of the Marriott family business. By 2004 Marriott International, which originated with a small A&W Root Beer stand in Washington, D.C., opened in 1927 by John Willard and Alice Sheets Marriott, had become a globally leading hospitality management and service company. Under the younger Marriott's direction, Marriott International grew into a billion-dollar hotel and resort empire comprising over 140,000 employees at more than 2,600 lodging properties located in the United States and 63 other countries and territories.

Marriott Jr. was widely recognized in the hospitality industry for his visionary expansion of the company's lodging division. The company was consistently ranked as one of the industry's most admired and one of the best places to work, as reported by Fortune magazine. In addition to being at the fore-front of the business of providing hospitality, Marriott Jr. has shown himself to be a devoted educational philanthropist. Under his leadership, Marriott aimed to aggressively increase its brand exposure and the overall success of its businesses. The company committed itself to offering outstanding customer service, ample opportunities for executive advancement, and noteworthy returns for both shareholders and owners.


Newlyweds J. Willard Marriott Sr. and Alice Sheets Marriott moved to Washington, D.C., from Marriott Settlement, Utah, in 1922. Together in 1927 they launched a small, nine-seat root-beer stand using $6,000 in loans. Later that year they added hot Mexican-style food to their menu and adopted the name Hot Shoppe. The one restaurant soon expanded into the Hot Shoppes chain, which eventually evolved into the Marriott hotel and resort empire. The tiny enterprise flourished in spite of the Great Depression, and the Marriotts—who were hard-working and dedicated Mormons—soon diversified into airline catering, cafeterias, and institutional food service. J. Willard Marriott Jr. was born during the early years of the development of the family business.


Before working at the family business, Marriott Jr. polished his father's shoes so that they would be ready for church on Sundays. One Saturday he had to rigorously scrub the shoes to remove a gummy substance that his father had picked up during work from the previous week. It took the boy hours to properly clean the shoes—so that he might pass his father's grueling inspection. In Spirit to Serve: Marriott's Way , Marriott Jr. wrote about his father, "Perfection was one notch below the desired result" (1997). The younger Marriott learned a valuable lesson from that early experience: to stick with any job until it was done right.


In 1941, at the age of 14, Marriott Jr. was old enough to learn about the family business from the ground floor; he took his first company job stapling invoices together for the accounting department. He quickly learned that his father used a hands-on management approach and that both parents were very conservative and never took anything for granted, especially success. Marriott Jr. was fond of quoting his father (who was quoting Winston Churchill) as saying, "Success is never final" (1997). That conservative work ethic would remain with Marriott Jr. throughout his life.

Marriott Jr. continued working at his parents' Hot Shoppes while attending the prestigious St. Albans Prep School in Washington, D.C. He cooked hamburgers, washed dishes, and mopped floors; through this work and through exposure to his parents' work he learned some of the skills that he would need later in his career with the company. Marriott Jr. recalled on the company Web site, "When I was a kid, we used to sit around the table at home and all we would talk about was the business." While attending the University of Utah, Marriott Jr. worked at the fountain and in the dish room, cleaning counters and floors, serving customers, and cooking, at a Hot Shoppe restaurant in Salt Lake City.


After receiving his bachelor's degree in banking and finance in 1954, Marriott Jr. became a lieutenant with the U.S. Naval Reserves, spending two years as a ship's service supply officer aboard the U.S.S. Randolph . In 1956 he returned full-time to his parents' company. By that time, the Marriotts' food-service customers included hospitals, schools, and highway rest stops, in addition to the expanding divisions of Hot Shoppes and In-Flite, an airline catering service.

Upon Marriott Jr.'s return to the family business, an exciting and promising new development was taking place: the building of the company's first motel, Twin Bridges Motor Hotel, in Arlington, Virginia. As the company's first venture into the lodging industry the hotel would become very important to Marriott Jr.

Eager to manage his own piece of the family enterprise, Marriott Jr. asked his father to place him in charge of the small hotel division. The senior Marriott agreed, even though his son had been back in the business for only eight months. Marriott Jr. immediately faced the challenges and hurdles of running a new business: he was responsible for everything from hiring architects and securing general contractors to preparing last-minute details for the grand opening of the new hotel. He applied the lessons he had earlier learned from his father; part of his ethic was to understand every facet of the business by using a hands-on approach to management.

Marriott Jr. enjoyed every aspect of his work, completely immersing himself in the job—amassing ideas, ultimately successful or not, and slowly building the newly formed hotels as well as the systems needed to run them from the ground up. He was instituting the Marriott "badge of quality" from a solid foundation of hard work, dedication, and old-fashioned common sense.


In 1964 John Willard Marriott Sr. appointed his son, at the age of 32, president and a member of the board of directors of Marriott–Hot Shoppes. At this time Marriott Jr. convinced his father that to achieve growth within the company they needed to take on debt from the equity they had built up. He told his father that to bring about fundamental internal change—that is, to complete the evolution from a handful of local businesses into a global enterprise—they would need the three Ds: development, deals, and debt.

During the next three years, Marriott Jr. turned Marriott–Hot Shoppes into an international company by purchasing an airline-catering kitchen in Venezuela and expanding its restaurant operations to include the Big Boy and Roy Rogers restaurant chains. In its 40th-anniversary year, the company changed its name from Marriott–Hot Shoppes to Marriott Corporation.


In 1972 Marriott Jr. assumed the role of CEO, replacing his father but maintaining the latter's conservative business practices. Marriott Jr. had learned that the hotel business depended on balancing excellent customer service and clean, comfortable accommodations with controlled costs. As quoted by Logan Rochelle in her book of business biographies, Marriott continued operating under his father's basic philosophy: "to make sure our associates are very happy and that they enjoy their work, so they go the extra mile—take care of customers and have fun doing it. A lot of companies go through the motions, but they don't go the extra mile" (2002).

Marriott Jr. began to implement his dream for the business: expanding the lodging division through acquisitions and development of new brands. Under his direction, the company quickly established complex financing techniques and built an effective in-house construction operation. By the early 1980s Marriott Jr. had transformed the company into one of the world's largest real-estate developers, building more than $1 billion in hotel properties annually.

As the number of the company's full-service hotels increased, Marriott Jr. continued his aggressive plans to develop a series of lodging brands. Beginning in 1983 with Courtyard by Marriott, the company introduced new hotel lines ranging from economy to luxury accommodations; these innovations in the hospitality industry were often far ahead of what the competition was doing—or even planning. In 1984 Marriot entered the vacation time-share business.


Marriott stepped into the role of chairman following his father's death in 1985. He immediately took charge of the entire company's operations, traveling globally to manage what had become the world's largest hotel chain—by that time, an average of two Marriott hotels opened each week. Marriott Jr. narrowed Marriott's focus on lodging, senior accommodations, and contract services by divesting the company of its fast-food and family restaurants.

By 1986 the company's publicly traded stock split 5 for 1. Respect within the hospitality industry was growing for the very successful company; in 1988 Chief Executive magazine named Bill Marriott "CEO of the Year" and Fortune magazine included him on its list of the "25 Most Fascinating Business Leaders." One of the reasons given by experts as to why the Marriott family ran such an impressive business was their attention to detail. For example, over the years the Marriotts collected information on how to properly clean a room in a consistent and high-quality manner, eventually developing an instruction guide that laid out 66 separate steps such that each hotel room would be cleaned in less than 30 minutes. Every aspect of the business was based on such natural and logical methods of performing tasks and services.


In 1993 Marriott Jr. helped to split the former company into two separate companies: Marriott International, a lodging and services management company, and Host Marriott Corporation, focusing on real-estate and airport concessions. The acquisition of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company helped to continue Marriott International's growth.


In 1997 Marriott named William J. Shaw, a 22-year company veteran, to the posts of president and chief operating officer. Also that year Marriott Jr. coauthored a book with Kathi Ann Brown about his business philosophy, entitled, The Spirit to Serve: Marriott's Way . Therein, Marriott Jr. talked openly about all of the many facets of his business life, including the mistakes he had made. He realized that failures were just as important as successes in learning over a lifetime how to develop a successful business. Marriott Jr. remarked frequently on the virtues of taking care of employees, listening well, and not wasting time on regret. He attributed the company's rapid expansion in part to early standard operating procedures and internal training programs; noting that if they had had to create a new hotel each and every time without the use of standard procedures, they would not have been so successful.

Marriott Jr. cited competitors' lack of reliability and uneven standards, as compared with Marriott, in referring to the company's developing and maintaining superior quality across the spectrum of its businesses. He was proud to point out that the original hands-on, personal-inspection management approach— which had been first used more than 75 years prior in a small root-beer stand—was still a part of Marriott's philosophy and culture.


As of the early 2000s Marriott Jr. continued to travel an average of 150,000 miles each year in visiting Marriott sites. In Spirit to Serve he said, "If you're in the service business and your name is above the door, it's important for people to be able to link a face to a name. I want our associates to know that there really is a guy named Marriott who cares about them, even if he can only drop by every so often to personally tell them so" (1997). Marriott Jr.'s oldest son, Steve, said of his father, "He loves to go through a hotel, greeting people. He told me once that he'd rather be doing that than anything else" (1997). Marriott Jr. himself admitted at the end of the 20th century, "The truth is, I'm still having fun after 40 years" (1997).


In spite of his busy travel schedule, Marriott Jr. served on several boards, including the National Geographic Society, the Naval Academy Endowment Trust, and the National Urban League. He also volunteered each week with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and supported a number of community organizations.

Bill Marriott Jr. and his wife, Donna, who were married in 1955, had three sons and one daughter: Steven, John, David, and Deborah. The Marriotts' four offspring gave them 12 grandchildren. Following in their father's footsteps, the Marriott children all worked in various positions within the family company; the three sons all worked full-time for Marriott International.

See also entry on Marriott International, Inc. in International Directory of Company Histories .

sources for further information

Marriott, J. Willard Jr., and Kathi Ann Brown, The Spirit to Serve: Marriott's Way , New York City, N.Y.: HarperBusiness, 1997.

Marriott, Richard E., "Building a Family Legacy: The Marriott Story," http://marriottschool.byu.edu/story/MarriottStory.pdf .

Marriott Web site, http://www.marriott.com .

Rochelle, Logan, and Julie Halverstadt, 100 Most Popular Business Leaders for Young Adults: Biographical Sketches and Professional Paths," Greenwood Village, Colo.: Libraries Unlimited, 2002.

—William Arthur Atkins

User Contributions:

All I can say is awesome, awesome, what an inspiration. I am currently taking a leadership class in school and I chose J.W. Marriott, Jr. not fully realizing the very unique and special person you and your family are. Thanks for your leadership over the years

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