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"This deal financially ... is not as good as the one in November. The deal we got in November, in retrospect, maybe was too good a deal," Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson told CNBC's "Squawk on the Street. ""We made a significant move over the course of the weekend, and decided we are really interested in the strategic power of this platform: Let's put a significantly increased offer — but one that will create value for our shareholders — on the table. Starwood's board's accepted it and we're ready to go."
Over the past year, Marriott has been watching the digital space, where sites try to monetize search results to resell Marriott rooms, for instance, Sorenson said. And with a new understanding of the ecosystem, Marriott decided to up its bets on Starwood, raising the stakes as much as 15 percent in response to Anbang's offer, Sorenson said.
"We didn't understand as well as we do today the advantage that this extraordinary ecosystem, through the loyalty program, would give us," when it comes to booking, said Sorenson.
The revised deal would give Starwood shareholders $21 in cash and 0.80 shares of Marriott International Class A stock for each Starwood share. Starwood shareholders are also expected to get Interval Leisure Group stock valued at $5.83 per share. Taken together, that would value Starwood stock at $85.36 per share.
The latest offer from Anbang and its partners was worth $83.67 for each Starwood share. Starwood stockholders would have received $78 in cash for each share they own, plus $5.67 in stock for a spinoff of a vacation business.
But Sorenson said that with the Marriott merger, Starwood's shareholders can benefit from cost savings and a large combined loyalty program that would provide the two chains a "bright future" not offered by Anbang, which also owns New York's Waldorf Astoria.
Despite some geopolitical tensions between the U.S. and China, Sorenson said the merger decision was not "fundamentally a political issue."
"I do believe both personally and as a matter of business that we do compete on a global platform," Sorenson said.
— The Associated Press and CNBC's Anita Balakrishnan contributed to this report.