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DALLAS-Ashford Hospitality Trust Inc.’s Monty J. Bennett has relinquished his title of president, promoting chief operating officer Douglas A. Kessler to take the spot. Bennett will retain his position as chief executive officer, while David A. Brooks has been tapped to replace Kessler as chief operating officer and general counsel.

“Doug has been instrumental in every aspect of Ashford’s growth,” Bennett commented in a prepared statement. “With his initiative and dedication to seek long-term shareholder return, he has spearheaded virtually all of our key objectives, including numerous equity and preferred capital raises, property level and corporate debt facilities, as well as acquisitions including the $2.5-billion CNL transaction.”

The local REIT collected a 51-hotel portfolio in April 2007 as part of a $6.6-billion merger between Orlando-based CNL Resorts Inc. and a real estate fund managed by Morgan Stanley. Later in 2007, Ashford partnered with Beverly Hills, CA-based Hilton Hotels Corp. to rework management pacts for 11 of the hotels, which gave ownership in nine hotels to Ashford and two to Hilton. Approximately six months ago, one of the hotels from the CNL buyout, the Hilton Dallas Lincoln Centre, was sold to Apollo Value Enhancement Fund in New York City for $72 million.

Bennett added in the statement that Brooks’ promotion was based on his “multidimensional capabilities.” Bennett’s statement continued, “His unique combination of business acumen and legal expertise greatly enhance Ashford’s ability to pursue our strategic goals.” Kessler and Bennett were traveling and could not be reached for further comment.

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