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Officers & Directors

Officers & Directors

Senior Management

Douglas A. Kessler
Douglas A. Kessler
President & Chief Executive Officer
Douglas A. Kessler

Mr. Kessler is the President and Chief Executive Officer of Ashford Hospitality Trust (NYSE: AHT) and the President of Ashford Inc. (NYSE American: AINC). He also previously served as the President of Ashford Hospitality Prime (NYSE: AHP). Mr. Kessler has been with AHT since its formation, having led its IPO, and has served in various other capacities including its Chief Operating Officer. He has spearheaded virtually all of Ashford's key initiatives.

Mr. Kessler has an extensive background with over 30 years of diverse experience across many real estate sectors and operating companies in terms of acquisitions, development, dispositions, finance, asset management, and capital markets. Over those years, Mr. Kessler has served on several corporate boards or executive committees including both the AHT and AHP Board of Directors. Previously, Mr. Kessler spent ten years with Goldman Sachs' Whitehall Funds and five years with Trammell Crow.

Mr. Kessler earned both his MBA and BA in Economics from Stanford University.

David A. Brooks
David A. Brooks
Chief Operating Officer and General Counsel
David A. Brooks Mr. Brooks is the chief Operating Officer, General Counsel & Secretary of Ashford (NYSE American: AINC) and serves as Chief Operating Officer, General Counsel & Secretary of both Ashford Hospitality Trust (NYSE: AHT) and Ashford Hospitality Prime (NYSE: AHP). Prior to joining Remington Hotel Corporation and Ashford Financial Corporation in January of 1992, Mr. Brooks, a former licensed CPA and attorney, practiced law with the law firm of Sheinfeld, Maley & Kay in both Houston and Dallas offices.

In January of 1992, Mr. Brooks joined Remington Hotel Corporation, and its affiliate, Ashford Financial Corporation, in the capacity of Executive Vice President and General Counsel. While at Remington, Mr. Brooks negotiated and closed the acquisition of over $1 billion in hotels and hotel related mortgages making Remington/Ashford the largest buyer of hospitality related assets from the RTC. In addition, Mr. Brooks managed the development of seven hotels and asset managed over 145 predominately non-performing hospitality loans (with a book value of approximately $750 million).

In 2003, Mr. Brooks, together with the Ashford management team, successfully negotiated and completed the initial public offering for Ashford Hospitality Trust, Inc., raising approximately $220 million in capital for the newly formed real estate investment trust.

Mr. Brooks earned his Bachelor of Business Administration in Accounting from the University of North Texas in 1981, his Juris Doctorate from the University of Houston Law Center in 1984 and his CPA from the State of Texas in 1984 (currently non-practicing status).
Deric S. Eubanks
Deric S. Eubanks
Chief Financial Officer
Deric S. Eubanks Mr. Eubanks is the Chief Financial Officer of Ashford and serves as the Chief Financial Officer of both Ashford Hospitality Trust and Ashford Hospitality Prime. Mr. Eubanks oversees all corporate finance and financial reporting initiatives and is involved in all capital market activities including equity raises and debt financings. He also oversees investor relations. Mr. Eubanks formerly served as the Senior Vice President of Finance. Prior to this role, Mr. Eubanks was Vice President of Investments and was responsible for sourcing and underwriting hotel investments including direct equity investments, joint venture equity, preferred equity, mezzanine loans, first mortgages, B-notes, construction loans, and other debt securities for Ashford Trust.  Mr. Eubanks has been with Ashford Trust since its initial public offering in August of 2003. He has written several articles for industry publications and is a frequent speaker at industry conferences and industry round tables. Before joining Ashford, Mr. Eubanks was a Manager of Financial Analysis for ClubCorp, where he assisted in underwriting and analyzing investment opportunities in the golf and resort industries. Mr. Eubanks earned a B.B.A. from Southern Methodist University and is a CFA charter holder. He is a member of the CFA Institute and the CFA Society of Dallas-Fort Worth.
Mark L. Nunneley
Mark L. Nunneley
Chief Accounting Officer
Mark L. Nunneley Mr. Nunneley is the Chief Accounting Officer of Ashford (NYSE American: AINC) and serves as the chief Accounting Officer of both Ashford Hospitality Trust (NYSE: AHT) and Ashford Hospitality Prime (NYSE: AHP). He has served as the Chief Accounting Officer of Ashford Hospitality Trust since May 2003 where he is responsible for the tax, accounting, ad valorem tax and treasury functions. From 1992 to 2003, Mr. Nunneley served as Chief Financial Officer of the Company's predecessor. He previously served as a tax consultant at Arthur Andersen & Company and as a tax manager at Deloitte & Touche. During his career, he has been responsible for the preparation, consultation and review of federal and state income tax, franchise and sales and use tax returns for hundreds of partnerships, corporations and individuals. Mr. Nunneley is also responsible for the ad valorem tax function which includes successfully appealing and receiving refunds in the millions of dollars. Mr. Nunneley is a certified public accountant and is a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, Texas Society of CPAs and Dallas Chapter of AICPAs.
Jeremy J. Welter
Jeremy J. Welter
Executive Vice President of Asset Management
Jeremy J. Welter Mr. Welter is the Executive Vice President of Asset Management of Ashford (NYSE American: AINC) and serves as the Executive Vice President of Asset Management of both Ashford Hospitality Trust (NYSE: AHT) and Ashford Hospitality Prime (NYSE: AHP). Mr Welter has served as the Executive Vice President of Asset Management for Ashford Hospitality Trust since January 2011. In his current role, Mr. Welter presides over Ashford's lodging portfolio consisting of 123 hotels, 25,716 rooms, and valued at over $4 billion. He oversees property performance and operations, capital investment and execution, risk management and brand relations. He also directs strategic positioning of all Ashford's lodging assets including: rebranding, repositioning, new property leases, ground lease extensions and buyouts. He is responsible for joint venture relations and serves as a member of the Executive Joint Venture Committee for the Highland Portfolio. As a member of Ashford's executive team, Mr. Welter actively participates in corporate strategy sessions and company board meetings. Under his leadership, Ashford's asset management team has consistently outperformed its peers in EBITDA flows and margin improvement. Specifically, Mr. Welter's asset management team cut approximately $6 million of costs out of 28 Highland hotels resulting in EBITDA flows of 94% on 5% RevPAR growth during its first full calendar year of ownership. In less than two years, NOI at the Highland portfolio has grown over 30%. Mr. Welter actively participates in Marriott, Hilton, Starwood and Hyatt owners' conferences and meetings and is an active participant in Marriott's Owners' Advisory Committee. Mr. Welter is a speaker and panelist for various lodging investment and development conferences, including NYU and The Lodging Conference.

Mr. Welter earned his Bachelor of Science in Business Administration in Economics from Oklahoma State University where he served as student body president and graduated Summa Cum Laude. He was also named top overall graduate in the Spears School of Business and top overall economics student by the faculty and administration.
J. Robison Hays
J. Robison Hays
Chief Strategy Officer
J. Robison Hays Mr. Hays is the Chief Strategy Officer of Ashford, Inc. (NYSE American: AINC, “Ashford”) and the Chief Investment Officer of Ashford Investment Management (“AIM”), the securities investment arm of Ashford. He also serves as the Chief Strategy Officer of Ashford affiliates Ashford Hospitality Trust (NYSE: AHT) and Ashford Hospitality Prime (NYSE: AHP). Mr. Hays is responsible for the formation and execution of the strategic initiatives of the company. He oversees financial analysis as it relates to Ashford's corporate strategy, including acquisitions, divestitures, refinancings, hedging, capital market transactions and major capital outlays. Mr. Hays is responsible for setting the macroeconomic and real estate industry views for Ashford and AIM and oversees asset allocation and security selection for AIM. Mr. Hays previously served as Senior Vice President of Corporate Finance & Strategy and has been with Ashford since April 2005.

Prior to joining Ashford, Mr. Hays worked in the Corporate Development office of Dresser, Inc., a Dallas-based oil field service company, where he focused on mergers, acquisitions, and strategic direction. Before working at Dresser, Mr. Hays was a member of the Merrill Lynch Global Power & Energy Investment Banking Group in Texas.

Mr. Hays has been a frequent speaker at various lodging, real estate and alternative investment conferences around the globe. He earned his A.B. in Politics with a certificate in Political Economy from Princeton University and later studied philosophy at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome, Italy.

Board of Directors

Monty J. Bennett
Chairman of the Board
Mr. Bennett is the Founder, Chairman & Chief Executive Officer of Ashford (NYSE American: AINC) and serves as the Founder & Chairman of both Ashford Hospitality Trust (NYSE: AHT) and Ashford Hospitality Prime (NYSE: AHP). Mr. Bennett is a member of the American Hotel & Lodging Association's Industry Real Estate Finance Advisory Council (IREFAC), the Urban Land Institute's Hotel Council, the Global Advisory Council of Hoftel, a worldwide hotel ownership group, and is on the Advisory Editorial board for GlobalHotelNetwork.com. He is also a member of the CEO Fiscal Leadership Council for Fix the Debt, a non-partisan group dedicated to reducing the nation's federal debt level and on the advisory board of Texans for Education Reform. Formerly, Mr. Bennett was a member of Marriott's Owner Advisory Council and Hilton's Embassy Suites Franchise Advisory Council. Mr. Bennett is a frequent speaker and panelist for various hotel development and investment conferences including the NYU conference and the ALIS conference. Mr. Bennett received the Top-Performing CEO Award from HVS for 2011. This award is presented each year to the CEO in the hospitality industry who offers the best value to shareholders based on HVS's pay-for-performance model. The model compares financial results relative to CEO compensation, as well as a stock appreciation, company growth and increases in EBITDA. Mr. Bennett holds a Master's degree in Business Administration from Cornell's S.C. Johnson Graduate School of Management and received a Bachelor of Science degree with distinction from the School of Hotel Administration also at Cornell. He is a life member of the Cornell Hotel Society.

Mr. Bennett's extensive industry experience as well as the strong and consistent leadership qualities he has displayed in his role as the chief executive officer and a director of Ashford Trust since its inception are vital skills that make him uniquely qualified to serve as the chairman of our board of directors.
Benjamin J. Ansell, MD
Dr. Ansell was elected to the board of directors in May 2009 and currently serves as our lead director. Dr. Ansell is the founder of and current Director and Chairman of the Board of the UCLA Executive Health Program, where he has been responsible for marketing and selling executive health program services to more than twenty Fortune 500 companies and 4,000 individual customers. Dr. Ansell also founded and serves as the Director of UCLA Medical Hospitality, which coordinates health services, concierge and some hospitality functions within the UCLA Health System. Dr. Ansell is also a senior practice physician within the UCLA Health System specializing in cardiovascular disease prevention and early detection strategies. Over the past two decades, Dr. Ansell has acted as senior advisor to the pharmaceutical industry and financial community with respect to U.S. marketing, sales and branding strategies for cardiovascular medication.
Amish Gupta
Mr. Gupta was elected to the board of directors in May 2014. Mr. Gupta is currently the chief operating officer of RETC, Limited Partnership, a property tax advisory firm that has represented over $20 billion in asset value nationally. He has led RETC since 2010, where he is responsible for overall operations and strategy. Prior to joining RETC, Mr. Gupta served as a real estate associate at The Carlyle Group, a private equity firm headquartered in Washington D.C. with more than $189 billion in assets under management, for three years.

Mr. Gupta received his MBA from the Kellogg School of Management and his BA from Emory University. Mr. Gupta's extensive real estate experience, stemming from his experience with the RETC and the Carlyle Group, combined with his business acumen, will generate valuable insights into the economic environment of the real estate industry for the board.
Kamal Jafarnia
Kamal Jafarnia was appointed to the board of directors effective January 2013. Mr. Jafarnia serves as Senior Vice President of W.P. Carey Inc., as well as Senior Vice President and Chief Compliance Officer of Carey Credit Advisors, LLC. He is also Chief Compliance Officer and General Counsel of Carey Financial, LLC. Mr. Jafarnia joined W. P. Carey Inc. in October of 2014 and currently serves as Senior Vice President. Prior to joining W. P. Carey Inc., he served as Counsel to two American Lawyer Global 100 law firms in New York. From March 2014 to October 2014, he served as Counsel in the REIT practice group at the law firm of Greenberg Traurig, LLP. From August 2012 to March 2014, Mr. Jafarnia served as Counsel in the Financial Services & Products Group and was a member of the REIT practice group of Alston & Bird, LLP. Before his tenure at these firms, Mr. Jafarnia served as a senior executive, in-house counsel, and Chief Compliance Officer for several alternative investment program sponsors. Between 2008 and 2012, he served as counsel at American Realty Capital, a real estate investment program sponsor, and served as Chief Compliance Officer of its affiliated broker-dealer, Realty Capital Securities, LLC.

Mr. Jafarnia received his JD from Temple University School of Law and LLM from Georgetown University. Mr. Jafarnia is a licensed attorney admitted to practice law in four states and the District of Columbia and has spent a majority of his career specifically as a regulatory compliance officer. He has over 16 years of experience in the real estate and financial services industry as an attorney, owner, principal, compliance officer and executive. His experience in these multiple roles provides unique perspectives and benefits to the board, including specifically with respect to regulatory compliance. Mr. Jafarnia also has and maintains numerous relationships in the real estate industry that may be beneficial to his service on the board.
Frederick J. Kleisner
Mr. Kleisner has been a member of the AMTG Board since the AMTG IPO in July 2011. Mr. Kleisner served as President and a director of Hard Rock Hotel Holdings, LLC, a destination casino and resort company, from October 2007 to March 2011. From December 2007 until March 2011, Mr. Kleisner also served as Chief Executive Officer of Morgans Hotel Group Co. (NASDAQ: MHGC), or Morgans, a hospitality company, and as President and Chief Executive Officer (including interim President and Chief Executive Officer) of Morgans from September 2007 until March 2009. Mr. Kleisner also served as a director of Morgans from February 2006 until March 2011. From January 2006 to September 2007, Mr. Kleisner was the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Rex Advisors, LLC, a hotel advisory firm. From August 1999 to December 31, 2005, Mr. Kleisner served as President, Chief Operating Officer and, from March 2000 to August, 2005, Chief Executive Officer of Wyndham International, Inc., or Wyndham International, a global hotel company. Mr. Kleisner also has served as Chairman of Wyndham International’s Board from October 2000 to August 2005. From January 1998 to August 1999, he served as President and Chief Operating Officer of The Americas for Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. Hotel Group. He has held senior positions with Westin Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, where he served as President and Chief Operating Officer from 1995 to 1998,Interstate Hotels Company, where he served as Executive Vice President and Group President of Operations from 1990 to 1995, The ITT Sheraton Corporation, where he served as Senior Vice President, Director of Operations, North America Division-East from 1985 to 1990, and Hilton Hotels, Corp. where for 16 years he served as General Manager of several landmark hotels. Since 2013, Mr. Kleisner serves as a director of Caesars Entertainment Corporation (NASDAQ: CZR). Mr. Kleisner has served as a director of Innkeepers USA Trust, a subsidiary of Apollo Investment Corporation (NASDAQ: AINV), from November 2007 to August 2010, and serves as a director of Kindred Healthcare, Inc. (NYSE: KND), a healthcare services company, since April 2009.He is currently a director of Playtime, LLC, a manufacturer of antibacterial and antimicrobial playground equipment and play systems, and Aimbridge Hospitality, Inc., a hotel investment and management firm. He also serves as a Real Estate Investment Management Advisory Board member of Michigan State University’s Eli Broad College of Business, School of Hospitality Business. Mr. Kleisner graduated from Michigan State University with a BA in Hotel Management, completed advanced studies at the University of Virginia, Darden School of Business and attended The Catholic University of America. Mr. Kleisner qualifies as an “audit committee financial expert” under the guidelines of the SEC.
Philip S. Payne
For over twenty years Mr. Payne’s primary focus has been the development, acquisition, rehabilitation and management of middle market (workforce) multifamily housing.
Mr. Payne is currently the CEO of Ginkgo Residential, which was formed in July 2010. Ginkgo provides property management services for multifamily properties in the southeastern United States and is actively involved in the acquisition and substantial rehabilitation of middle market multifamily properties. He is a principal in Ginko Investment Company, formed in July 2013, which invests in multifamily properties in the southeastern United States. From 2007 to 2010, Mr. Payne served as the CEO of Babcock & Brown Residential. Prior to joining Babcock & Brown Residential, Mr. Payne was the Chairman of BNP Residential Properties Trust, a publicly traded real estate investment trust that was acquired by Babcock & Brown Ltd, a publicly traded Australian investment bank, in February 2007.
In addition to his duties at Ginkgo, Mr. Payne is a member of the Board of Directors of Ashford Hospitality Trust, a NYSE listed real estate investment trust focused on the hospitality industry.
Mr. Payne is a Trustee and Governor of the Urban Land Institute (“ULI”), and is a member of ULI's Responsible Property Investing Council (founding Chairman), a former co-chairman of ULI’s Climate, Land Use and Energy Committee and currently services as a member of the advisory board for ULI’s Center for Sustainability. He is a member of the National Multifamily Housing Council and of Fannie Mae’s Green Financing Taskforce.
Mr. Payne received a BS and a JD degree from The College of William and Mary in Virginia. He has written for various publications and spoken at numerous conferences on a variety of topics including real estate investment trusts, securities regulations, finance, responsible property investing and sustainability.
Alan L. Tallis
Mr. Tallis has served on our board since his appointment in January 2013. From March 2008 through February 2011, Mr. Tallis served as Executive Vice President, Asset Management for our company, and from February 2011 through January 2012, Mr. Tallis served as a consultant to our company. From June 2006 to May 2007, Mr. Tallis served as a senior advisor to Blackstone Real Estate Advisors following its acquisition of La Quinta Corporation. From July 2000 until May 2006, Mr. Tallis served in various positions with La Quinta Corporation, most recently serving as President and Chief Development Officer of LQ Management LLC and President of La Quinta Franchising LLC. Prior to joining La Quinta Corporation, Mr. Tallis held various positions with Red Roof Inns, including serving as Executive Vice President—Development and General Counsel from 1994 to 1999.

Mr. Tallis has over 30 years of experience in the lodging industry. His diverse experience has included extensive transaction work, brand management and brand relations. In addition to his extensive experience in the lodging industry, Mr. Tallis' service with our company, first as our Executive Vice President, Asset Management and then as a consultant, allows him to bring a valuable perspective to the board.

Chairman Emeritus

Archie Bennett Jr.
Mr. Bennett began his career in the hotel industry in 1968 with the development and management of the Holiday Inn in Galveston, Texas. Since that time, he has been involved with the development, acquisition and management of hundreds of hotel properties, the value of which exceeds $1 billion. He is a frequent speaker at industry conferences and is a recognized authority on the subjects of hotel development, finance, acquisitions, sales, and management. He has been featured in national business and industry publications including National Real Estate Investor, Hotel/ Motel Management, Lodging Hospitality and Commercial Real Estate News. Mr. Bennett was a founding member of Industry Real Estate Finance Advisory Council (IREFAC) of the American Hotel & Motel Association and served as its chairman on two separate occasions.
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