DALLAS — On Wednesday, Ashford Hospitality Trust, Inc. announced a transition within its senior executive team. Douglas A. Kessler is voluntarily resigning as president and CEO to pursue other professional opportunities. The board of directors has appointed J. Robison Hays, III as the company’s new president and CEO. Kessler’s resignation and Hays’ appointment will be effective Thursday, May 14, 2020, the date of the company’s annual meeting of stockholders. Hays has been serving as the company’s chief strategy officer, a position he has held since May 2015. Kessler will remain with the company until May 14, 2020, to assist with the transition and be available to the company for a year on a consulting basis.
“I would like to thank Douglas for his invaluable leadership and contributions to Ashford Trust during his considerable tenure. He has been an extraordinary colleague and instrumental in the growth of Ashford Trust since its IPO in 2003. We wish him well in his future endeavors,” commented Monty J. Bennett, Ashford Trust’s chairman of the board. “We believe Rob is the ideal candidate to execute the vision for the company going forward. Having joined Ashford Trust in 2005 and serving most recently as our chief strategy officer, Rob has been actively involved in all aspects of the company. Given Rob’s breadth of experience and demonstrated leadership capabilities, we believe the transition will be seamless.”
Kessler is also resigning as senior managing director of Ashford Inc. Hays will resign as co-president and chief strategy officer of Ashford Inc. and assume the role of senior managing director. Hays will also resign as chief strategy officer of Braemar Hotels & Resorts Inc. and will no longer be an officer of Braemar. Hays will also no longer serve as chief strategy officer at Ashford Trust.
Hays, age 42, has served as the company’s chief strategy officer since May 2015 and prior to that served as its senior vice president—corporate finance and strategy since 2010. He has been with the company since 2005. Prior to joining the company, Hays worked in the corporate development office of Dresser, Inc., a Dallas-based oil field service and manufacturing company, where he focused on mergers, acquisitions, and strategic initiatives. Before working at Dresser, Hays was a member of the Merrill Lynch Global Power & Energy Investment Banking Group based in Texas. He received his undergraduate degree in politics from Princeton University and later studied philosophy at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome, Italy.