A group led by China’s Anbang Insurance Group Co. withdrew its $14 billion takeover bid for Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc., clearing the way for a purchase by Marriott International Inc., according to two people with knowledge of the matter.

The surprise move ends an almost three-week bidding war that threatened to upend a deal with Marriott that had been in the works since November. Anbang, which last weekend made a non-binding offer of $82.75 a share in cash, didn’t provide a reason for its withdrawal, said the people, who asked not to be named because the move hasn’t been made public.

Carrie Bloom, a spokeswoman for Starwood, declined to comment. Representatives for Beijing-based Anbang couldn’t immediately be reached. The bid withdrawal was reported earlier by the Wall Street Journal.

Anbang’s exit brings Marriott closer to forming the world’s largest hotel operator by purchasing Starwood, which has about 10 brands and a global pool of loyal guests. The combined company would gain power in negotiating commissions with online travel agents and be better able to compete with upstarts such as Airbnb Inc. With the deal’s closing, expected midyear, Marriott would have about 1.1 million rooms in 5,700 properties. About 35 percent of the rooms are outside the U.S.

Starwood shareholders are scheduled to vote April 8 on Marriott’s cash-and-stock bid, valued at $77.94 a share, or $13.2 billion, based on Thursday’s closing price.

Starwood shares fell 4.5 percent in after-hours trading to $79.65 as of 4:36 p.m. in New York.

Anbang had been working with J.C. Flowers & Co. and Primavera Capital on its bid. The Chinese insurer has been expanding into U.S. hotels, bursting onto the scene with the $1.95 billion purchase of New York’s landmark Waldorf Astoria last year. It has agreed to buy Strategic Hotels & Resorts Inc., an owner of 16 luxury properties, from Blackstone Group LP for about $6.5 billion, according to people with knowledge of the matter.