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Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson dead at 62 after cancer battle

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Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson dead at 62 after cancer battle

Marriott International’s longtime chief executive Arne Sorenson died on Monday, the company said.

Sorenson, 62, had been battling pancreatic cancer and had reduced his work schedule on Feb. 2 to receive more aggressive treatment, the company said at the time.

He was only the third CEO in the company’s 94-year history — assuming the role in 2012 — and the first outside the Marriott family to take the helm of the world’s biggest hotel chain. 

“Arne was an exceptional executive – but more than that – he was an exceptional human being,” said J.W. Marriott, Jr., executive chairman and chairman of the board.

“Arne loved every aspect of this business and relished time spent touring our hotels and meeting associates around the world. He had an uncanny ability to anticipate where the hospitality industry was headed and position Marriott for growth,” Marriott added. “But the roles he relished the most were as husband, father, brother and friend. On behalf of the Board and Marriott’s hundreds of thousands of associates around the world, we extend our heartfelt condolences to Arne’s wife and four children. We share your heartbreak, and we will miss Arne deeply.”

Sorenson disclosed his battle with cancer in May 2019. Born in Japan, he was the son of a Lutheran pastor and earned a law degree from the University of Minnesota.

Under Sorenson, Marriott became the largest hotel company in the world after acquiring Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide in 2016 in a $13 billion deal, adding brands including the W Hotel chain, The St. Regis, Sheraton and Westin.

Marriott tapped two veteran executives and group presidents to temporarily assume Sorenson’s duties this month, Stephanie Linnartz and Tony Capuano. Marriott said it will name a new CEO within the next two weeks.

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United Airlines to pay $49.5M to settle mail contract probe

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United Airlines to pay $49.5M to settle mail contract probe

United Airlines agreed to pay $49.5 million to resolve criminal charges and civil claims relating to fraud on Postal Service contracts for transportation of international mail, the US Justice Department said Friday.

“United defrauded the US Postal Service by providing falsified parcel delivery information over a period of years and accepting millions of dollars of payments to which the company was not entitled,” the Justice Department’s acting criminal division chief Nicholas L. McQuaid said.

United did not immediately comment.

The Justice Department said between 2012 and 2015, United defrauded the US Postal Service (USPS) by submitting false delivery scan data. The government said United submitted automated delivery scans based on aspirational delivery times. The government said some individuals at United sought “to hide the automation practices included efforts to revise the falsified delivery times to make the automated scans appear less suspicious to USPS.”

United agreed to strengthen its compliance program and to submit yearly reports to the Justice Department detailing the status of remediation and implementation of United’s compliance program and internal controls.

The government cited United’s prior history, including a 2016 non-prosecution agreement relating to potential criminal bribery violations arising out of United’s establishment and operation of a non-stop route between NJ’s Newark Liberty International Airport and Columbia Metropolitan Airport in South Carolina.

In 2019, American Airlines, paid $22.1 million to settle claims it falsely reported the times it transferred possession of US mail to foreign postal administrations or other intended recipients, the Justice Department said.

USPS contracted with American to take possession of receptacles of US mail at six locations and then deliver it to numerous international and domestic destinations. The settlement resolves claims American Airlines falsely reported the times it transferred possession of the mail. American did not immediately comment.

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Bill Ackman tells investors to follow him on Twitter

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Bill Ackman tells investors to follow him on Twitter

Billionaire Bill Ackman appears to be taking a page from Elon Musk with plans to start announcing market-moving news on Twitter.

The billionaire investor’s blank check company, Pershing Square Tontine Holdings, issued a press release on Friday highlighting Ackman’s Twitter feed and saying it may be used as a venue for official announcements.

“Investors should follow this account for information about the company,” the release said.

Ackman’s #FollowFriday campaign comes as retail traders wage their second campaign on “meme stocks” like GameStop, prizing sentiment and social media posts over fundamentals and pumping so-called “stonks” unloved by mainstream Wall Street investors.

Ackman was up late Thursday night engaging with Twitter users who asked him about a second Pershing Square blank check company, aslo known as a SPAC. His terse answers thrilled some followers who seemed to read into the ambiguous responses.

When asked if investors in the first SPAC could be given priority to invest in the second, Ackman tweeted “We have the technology” leading users on Twitter and Reddit to proclaim that Ackman was about to acquire payment platforms Stripe, Plaid, or even trading app Robinhood, with dozens of users posting that Ackman’s tweets indicate he would announce a merger on Friday, on Twitter.

Despite Ackman appearing to have gained more than 1,000 new followers in a matter of hours, shares in Pershing Square Tontine were trading slightly down at midday after spiking in early trading.

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Cinemark ‘confident’ in box office rebound despite Q4 loss

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Cinemark 'confident' in box office rebound despite Q4 loss

Cinema giant Cinemark said Friday it sees the light at the end of the tunnel even as it swung to a quarterly loss as the coronavirus pandemic crushed movie attendance.

In the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, Cinemark posted a loss of $239 million, or $2.03 a diluted share compared with a year-ago profit of $23 million, or 22 cents a share. Revenue fell to $98 million from $789 million a year ago. Wall Street expected a loss of $1.46 a share on revenue of $80 million.

Chief executive Mark Zorandi noted that the results were severely hampered by the pandemic, which shuttered its theaters or reduced its seating capacity since the last year.

“It is almost unfathomable that one year ago, we were reporting Cinemark’s fifth consecutive year of record results with the North American industry touting the second-highest-grossing box office of all-time,” he said.

As of the fourth quarter, the Plano, Texas-based company had 217 domestic and 129 international movie theaters open, all operating at limited hours and capacity, and showing mostly older movies.

Still, the nation’s third-largest movie theater chain with 533 theaters — 331 of which are in the US —said it sees hope on the horizon as moviegoing rises in regions where the virus has been contained.

“We remain highly confident in the rebound of our industry once the virus is more contained, as evidenced by recent box office results in China, Japan and Australia,” the CEO said. “Cinemark was well-positioned heading into the crisis, and we have adapted and evolved the way we operate to navigate the current environment, and to ensure we remain successful and further solidify our leadership position as theatrical moviegoing resurges.”

In the US, the early success of the vaccine, which has lowered COVID cases, has also been a cause for celebration among movie theater owners. New York City, one of the most lucrative box office markets, will reopen movie theaters at limited capacity in March, after a yearlong hiatus.

Zorandi said his company is well-positioned to weather the storm with $655 million in cash.

“While COVID-19 has caused significant distress to our industry and our company, Cinemark has maintained discipline and consistency, while demonstrating relentless perseverance and agility,” he added.

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