The Marriott Family’s Civil War

The Marriott Family’s Civil War

John Willard Marriott III appears apprehensive. We’re sitting inside the residing room of his rented Georgetown rowhouse on a crisp, sunny morning. almost ten of these ought to in shape inside the Potomac mansion he used to proportion along with his wife, Angela, and their 3 daughters—earlier than their marriage fell aside, unleashing, Marriott says, a cascade of events that left him estranged from his mother and father and his siblings. It’s why he’s invited me right here: to element a life of hidden pain and remorse, and give an explanation for why he’s going to court towards his family, which takes place to control the biggest motel empire inside the global.

This isn’t clean for him, he says. He stammers and laughs at awkward moments. He fidgets with a pen, clicking it open and closed, as we speak. He’s spent his whole existence seeking to please his billionaire father—John Willard Marriott Jr., called bill—and to live as much as the not possible expectations attached to his famous call. As a boy, John says, he attended high-strain private schools, followed a faith he didn’t consider in, and smiled through intense depression, all to soothe his dad. even as an grownup, he says, he can be rebuked for the smallest transgressions, along with developing a beard while he became around 50: “My dad changed into so mad at me. i used to be purported to make a speech to give him an award that night time. He said, ‘you could’t make that speech until you shave that beard off.’ ”

Now, as punishment for leaving his wife, John alleges that his father is making an attempt to power him into monetary destroy—slicing him off from the Marriott fortune and forcing him out as CEO of a separate, privately run inn business known as JWM own family firms. As a result, John says, he changed into left without a preference but to sue both his father and his uncle, Richard Marriott, who percentage control of the consider set up by means of their dad and mom, alleging breach of fiduciary duty. John needs them each eliminated as trustees and to be made complete for the thousands and thousands of greenbacks he alleges he’s losing yearly now that he no longer earns a income from JWM or has access to his believe. “I’ve gotta stand up,” he says. “otherwise they’ll spoil me.”

via going public with his claims of mistreatment and betrayal, the 56-year-antique Marriott is threatening to shatter the cautiously cultivated image of one in every of Washington’s most effective households. In John’s telling, the Marriotts come off as fractious and unforgiving, controlled by using a domineering patriarch willing to cast out his own in the event that they displease him. The circle of relatives and their representatives reject John Marriott’s claims—and say they’ve labored difficult over the years to help him deal with his drug-and-alcohol addiction. something truth unspools over the course of the litigation, it’s certain to complicate the photo of wholesome tranquility conveyed by way of the oil-painted circle of relatives graphics that cling inside the lobbies of many of their resorts.

invoice and Donna Marriott raised John, his sister, Debbie, and brothers Stephen and David in a brick ranch residence off River avenue in Bethesda’s Kenwood. faith become the middle of their lives. For a duration in the 1970s, invoice committed 25 hours a week as a Mormon bishop, on pinnacle of the 70 hours he spent as CEO of Marriott, in step with a 2007 Washingtonian profile of the circle of relatives.

To friends and friends, they regarded happy and, thinking about their considerable wealth, noticeably ordinary. John loved throwing a football around and appeared to get alongside great along with his parents. “He changed into a good son, I suppose, in every recognize,” says Paul Thaler, who grew up with him.

That bill Marriott held his children to excessive requirements is not in dispute. It was, in spite of everything, the circle of relatives manner: invoice’s father, the unique J.W. Marriott, “become never satisfied,” invoice advised the Wall street magazine in 2005. “I were given Bs and he wanted As. He challenged everything I did.”

bill expected his personal youngsters to paintings difficult, adhere to the Mormon religion, carry out well in college, and by no means take benefit of their remaining call. “My dad knew all people would be looking at us as Marriotts and count on the worst—lazy, spoiled, all of that—and none folks are,” says John.

but in his lawsuit, he alleges that obeying his father also intended covering up a darkish reality. John says that as a 6th-grader at St. Albans—the prestigious boys’ faculty in which a 2009 addition become named Marriott hall—he contemplated suicide. He says the rigorous coursework became an excessive amount of to endure for a kid with anxiety and upload, and he begged his parents to let him transfer to public faculty. He says that one night time as he lay in mattress wondering, “i will’t deal,” he determined to walk all the way down to his mother and father’ room to ask for help.

“I didn’t apprehend despair or any of that on the time—I just knew i was so unhappy,” John remembers. “My dad just sort of stated, ‘You’ve got the whole lot you want. cross returned to bed.’ ” inside a 12 months, John says, his tension worsened to the factor that he couldn’t sleep. in line with his lawsuit, his father’s answer “extra than once” become to give him “a sturdy person prescription drug (Valium).”

notwithstanding his alleged struggles at domestic, classmates at St. Albans consider John as a likable, athletic man with a cool vehicle. (It turned into a ’seventy three Firebird. John nevertheless has it, along with a set of antique Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Corvettes, and Jaguars.)

every body knew that John became Mormon, of route, but he wasn’t inflexible about it. He went to events. pals consider that he may also have enjoyed a beer every occasionally, however nothing greater.

“He become sincerely extra constrained than lots of my classmates were in the late ’70s,” says Tom Challinor, who met John in first grade at Beauvoir. “There were children who were wildly jogging round and doing masses of medicine and conquering ladies—you understand, lengthy hair and loud—and that i wouldn’t name John any of these matters. He was personal but always very friendly, and he moved very without difficulty via the extraordinary cliques.”

whether or not his pals noticed or now not, John says that through age 17, he became into extra than the occasional beer.

John says he’s divulging his drug-and-alcohol hassle because he has “nothing to hide” and his circle of relatives has used it as “a weapon in opposition to” him inside the past.

“It’s some thing that I’ve struggled with my complete existence, and hold to war with,” he says. “I’ve sought assist and preserve to are looking for help. but I think it’s important to be prematurely approximately it. whilst i was really struggling, I still accomplished above and beyond even my personal expectations.”

John says he did well each academically and socially at the college of Utah, where he met his future spouse, Angela Cooper. They made a hanging pair—John sandy-haired and blue-eyed, Angela a stunning blonde. John says that like him, Angela had doubts approximately the Mormon faith.

although, they married on the LDS temple in Salt Lake metropolis quickly earlier than graduation in 1986. John, who’d taken almost two years off from faculty to complete a Mormon task in Japan, become 24. Angela was 23. (In his lawsuit, John says his dad told him “he needed to get married by the point he completed university” and that he’d instead his son “come home in a pine container than . . . engage in premarital sex.”)

The couple settled in Washington, and John joined the own family enterprise, starting his ascent towards the task that seemed to be his future: CEO of Marriott global.

John’s elder brother, Stephen, was born with a muscular disease called mitochondrial disorder, which subsequently rendered him blind and deaf. Stephen died in 2013, when he turned into fifty four. Debbie, the eldest sibling, dedicated maximum of her adult existence to raising her five youngsters, joining Marriott’s govt ranks most effective in 2006. David, the infant by using 12 years, without a doubt wouldn’t be skilled enough to take the helm, though colleagues say his character is the closest fit to that of his dad and grandfather.

That left John, who started out as a dishwasher inside the Crystal town Marriott at age 15. by the time he became an grownup, it was clean bill Marriott was grooming him as a capacity successor. “together with his gold-plated name, his all-American correct seems and 1 / 4-century within the family business, Mr. Marriott, forty one, could seem to be a great healthy for his father’s shoes,” gushed a 2003 big apple instances profile.

although John held down some of positions—resort wellknown supervisor, food-and-beverage director, finance director, govt vice chairman of income, and ultimately, president of North American lodging—some colleagues doubted he had the expertise to steer the whole company.

“John certainly did all that he needed to do as he rose up, however if he turned into talking at a grand commencing or interacting in a room of media or interacting in a social placing like a cocktail celebration, he simply in no way regarded that cozy,” says Roger Conner, who spent about 30 years at Marriott earlier than retiring as vice chairman of communications in 2009.

Others are harsher. “Senior and Junior had been each very balanced, logical, calm, cool, gathered selection makers,” says a former senior vice chairman, relating to the elder two John Willards. “John turned into none of those things. He may want to have a temper. He can be a rational choice maker, and at the subsequent meeting or on the following selection, it would just be a different method. He became erratic.”

via 1997, John were to rehab for abusing prescription medicines and alcohol, checking into a facility in Loma Linda, California. but colleagues didn’t suspect he was struggling with addiction, says the former executive. “He became wherein he needed to be, whilst he had to be there.”

John alleges that his father knew about his substance abuse but didn’t care so long as he saved it underneath wraps. He insists he by no means permit it get within the way of work. whether or not or not that’s genuine, one thing John couldn’t manipulate become Arne Sorenson’s arrival.

Marriott hired Sorenson far from the partnership at Latham & Watkins in 1996 to help with criminal and economic method. The newcomer speedy inspired stockholders and coworkers alike, and within two years he become named leader economic officer. “He’s an extremely brilliant, extraordinarily smart, charismatic guy,” says a former Marriott vp. “Arne has it all.”

In 2005, John remembers, his mobile cellphone rang even as he was sitting in the Rockville branch of Motor motors car parking zone. He says it become one among his dad’s lawyers calling to let him realize he turned into probable out of the walking to end up CEO.

“i used to be devastated,” says John. “I sat in my vehicle and cried for half of an hour. So in my license picture, my eyes are all pink.” His divorce records indicate that the time around the parking-lot call became a hard duration for him. That identical year, he received outpatient remedy for alcohol and prescription-pill dependancy from Kolmac recuperation center in Silver Spring.

with the aid of that point, each John and Angela have been furnishings in Washington society. Angela served on forums for the Make-a-wish basis, the Washington performing Arts Society, and the yank coronary heart affiliation. As contributors of the board of the national Zoo, the couple helped spearhead the fundraising pressure—consisting of a $1.6-million present from the Marriott own family—to carry back the giant pandas.

anything their reservations approximately the Mormon church, they raised their three daughters in the religion, attending the LDS temple in Potomac. John taught Sunday faculty for a time.

I’ve gotta stand up. otherwise they’ll wreck me.

knowing he wouldn’t emerge as CEO, he left Marriott inside the fall of 2005, though he remained on its board of directors as vice chairman. in the press, the move became framed as completely his choice. “John’s been thinking about this for a long term,” a Marriott spokeswoman informed Bloomberg news. “He’s very entrepreneurial and has a knack for real-estate investing.”

invoice Marriott stepped down in 2011. As predicted, Sorenson changed him, turning into the first non-family member to move Marriott. via maximum measures, Sorenson has loved incredible achievement. In 2016, he led Marriott international’s $13.6-billion acquisition of Starwood motels & hotels, catapulting the corporation’s total variety of inn rooms to extra than 1.2 million. in step with Fortune, that makes Marriott 50 percentage large than Hilton, the sector’s subsequent-biggest hospitality participant.

Marriott’s most current quarterly earnings totaled $392 million, a 460-percent enhance over the preceding year. In 2018, the employer will break ground on its new $600-million Bethesda headquarters.

as the organisation flourished with out him, John Marriott moved over to strolling the Marriotts’ private lodge mission, JWM own family organisations. He had started out the commercial enterprise in 1993 as part of developing a greater tax-efficient estate plan. In element via contributing some of his own family’s securities to JWM, John claims he helped store all of the Marriotts “billions of bucks” in estate taxes. by means of 2014, he says, he had constructed JWM right into a sixteen-belongings operation with extra than $30 million in earnings.

His domestic life, but, became unraveling. In 2010, the circle of relatives moved from their 12,000-square-foot Potomac mansion into a 20,000-rectangular-foot one they constructed doorways down from Uncle Richard—sure, the same uncle whom John is now suing.

pals grew fond of John and “Angie,” who they say had been constantly pleasant and heat. Angie might be noticed riding her bike—“She’d appearance so pretty,” says Donna Ward, who lived some houses away—and the complete Marriott extended family would turn out for the yearly Christmas birthday party hosted with the aid of Richard and his wife, Nancy. To the volume everybody ever gossiped about the pair, the chatter revolved around John’s cars—was it proper one became used inside the 2013 movie model of The splendid Gatsby? what number of did he in reality have in that huge garage on their assets besides? “They have been a glad own family,” says Ward. “It just appeared like the ideal photo.”

It wasn’t. Angie “was brazenly disillusioned whilst he didn't prevail his father,” John alleges in his lawsuit. Sandy Ain, Angie’s attorney, says that’s a mischaracterization: “Angie turned into worried about John and his well-being is a better—and extra accurate—manner to say it, and his troubles with tablets and alcohol. From her viewpoint, it impacted each issue of his existence.”

In courtroom papers, Angela says her husband “created an surroundings within the family that become inconsistent with a healthy, strong, and respectful marriage.” among 1997 and 2014, courtroom filings show, John enrolled in four one-of-a-kind rehab packages for dependancy to prescription medicines and alcohol. Angela additionally alleges that her ex-husband cheated on her “severa instances,” which John disputes. He does well known that in 2014 he commenced an affair with a French lady—whom he is nonetheless with. within the lawsuit against his circle of relatives, he blames Angela for their cut up.

“Angela had embraced her public role as a Marriott wife. She relished that function and all that came with it,” reads his grievance. “however at home, the marriage had long been devoid of affection or compassion. After years of estrangement and loneliness, John met any other woman and fell in love.”

thru her attorney, Angela declined to comment for this story. in spite of the issues in their marriage, Ain says Angela remained devoted to John till he walked out: “She turned into dedicated to him—that i can tell you—without any qualification or equivocation. She cared about him. She turned into involved approximately him.”

John says he traveled to the circle of relatives vacation compound on Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire to break the information to his mother and father that he become leaving Angie: “I explained why and what become happening. My dad just stored saying, ‘You’re leaving the family.’ I’m like, ‘I don’t want to go away the own family.’. . . I didn’t recognize at the time that he meant he changed into kicking me out.”

From that factor, invoice Marriott unleashed “a constant flaying,” according to John’s lawsuit, denying John get right of entry to to his accept as true with, threatening to show John’s records of substance abuse if he didn’t renounce from the board of Marriott international, slashing his equity inside the JWM hotels, and diverting a “full-size element” of John’s believe to “a non-beneficiary.” John declined to say whether or not the non-beneficiary is his ex-wife due to the fact the phrases of their divorce settlement are beneath seal, even though she remains close along with his circle of relatives.

He says his father also compelled him out as CEO of JWM circle of relatives companies and that the blended lack of that salary and his accept as true with amounts to hundreds of thousands of greenbacks annually. That stated, he’s a long way from destitute. An SEC submitting suggests he holds about $49 million in Marriott worldwide inventory. He also nevertheless owns the Potomac mansion he shared with Angie, worth more than $eight million (though he says it’s in a believe for his daughters).

via a circle of relatives spokesman, invoice and Richard Marriott deny John’s claims. “bill and Dick Marriott are saddened by means of John’s filing of a lawsuit,” a written statement reads. “bill has worked very hard through the years with a wonderful deal of information to assist John address his very own troubles which, in the lawsuit, John himself recognizes exist. That stated, invoice has reviewed the grievance and the allegations of misconduct sincerely aren't authentic and are baseless. invoice maintains to hope for the very great for his son John, but now need to protect John’s lawsuit to make certain the quality viable long-term end result for the whole circle of relatives, along with John’s daughters.”

For a man in his mid-Fifties, John Marriott appears not to have shed a positive streak of adolescent rebellion. At his Georgetown condo, he has mounted a Ping-Pong net to the fashionable eating desk and hung Ferrari posters on the eating-room wall. As we sink into the overstuffed couches that came with the vicinity, John says he’s deeply saddened by way of the rift: “To sue my dad and my uncle is the ultimate issue I want to do, and the closing factor I ever expected to do. I’ve constantly regarded up to them, and that i’ve constantly trusted them.” however for the first time in his existence, he provides, he additionally feels loose.

The rest of the family has a distinctive take. In e-mails to me, John’s siblings Debbie Marriott Harrison and David Marriott—both high-ranking executives at Marriott international—say they’re concerned about their brother’s health and well-being. They call his allegations “fake” and “unfounded.” David writes, “My Father and my uncle have constantly had the exceptional pastimes in their youngsters at heart, and that i agree with my Father has finished the whole thing in his electricity over the years to help John deal with his issues.”

All but cut off from his circle of relatives, John spends weeks on end along with his female friend within the motel town of Chamonix inside the French Alps. He stopped going to church. “I got tired of trying to stay as much as an photograph, or something, that someone else changed into imposing on me,” he says. “I figured I’d observe my own beliefs, and i try to be a little bit more open-minded than what I heard each Sunday for years and years.”

A court docket date is scheduled for the end of January, and John says he’s ready to fight: “This isn't gonna quit until I stand up.”

this text appears inside the January 2018 problem of Washingtonian.

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