President, CEO resigns from Dallas company that received largest loan from Paycheck Protection Program

Vintage bell with "check in" message on the wooden desk of the lobby service.

Dallas-based Ashford Hospitality Trust Inc. (NYSE: AHT), a publicly traded company that has received criticism for receiving funds from the $349 billion Paycheck Protection Program, announced that its CEO and president is resigning.

Douglas A. Kessler is voluntarily resigning as president and CEO is leaving to pursue other professional opportunities, according to the company.

The Board of Directors 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.  

Facing pressure from the government, several big companies, including the Potbelly and Shake Shack restaurant chains, have said they will return loans they received under the Paycheck Protection Program.

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The three hotel companies, Ashford Inc., Ashford Hospitality Trust and Braemar Hotels & Resorts, which are tied to Texas hotel magnate Monty Bennett, have applied for $126 million in loans and received $69 million, according to a calculation from securities filings by The Associated Press. They will use the money to protect jobs, they said in a statement. Since mid-March, the companies and their hotel properties have furloughed or laid off 90% of their workforce.