DALLAS, Dec. 24, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Ashford Hospitality Trust, Inc. (NYSE: AHT) has announced that Chairman Archie Bennett, Jr. will retire on his 75 th birthday, January 18, 2013, consistent with the Company's Corporate Governance Guidelines. On January 19, 2013, he will assume the role of Chairman Emeritus and advisor to the Company providing his expertise and insights to the Company on various initiatives and projects. Monty J. Bennett, who has served as Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Company since its formation in August 2003, will succeed him in his role as Chairman, effective January 19, 2013. "On behalf of the Company and the Board of Directors, I want to thank my father, Archie Bennett, Jr., for his many years of service and leadership to Ashford. His decades of industry knowledge and experience have been invaluable to the Company and significantly contributed to our total shareholder return outperformance versus our peers since our initial public offering in August, 2003. It has been a privilege to have him as our Chairman these past nine years and we look forward to his continued contributions to our success as Chairman Emeritus," said Monty J. Bennett. The Company has also announced that the Board of Directors has appointed W. Michael Murphy as its new lead Director, replacing Mr. Martin L. Edelman. Mr. Murphy, the Head of Lodging and Leisure Capital Markets for First Fidelity Companies, has been a Director since the Company's formation in August 2003. In connection with these events, the Board of Directors has modified the Company's Corporate Governance Guidelines to increase the size of the Board from seven to nine members and to rotate several members and chairmanships of the Board's committees. Effective as of January 19, 2013, the Company is pleased to announce that Mr. Douglas A. Kessler, the Company's President, and Mr. Kamal Jafarnia have been appointed to the Board. Mr. Kessler will continue to serve the Company as President, as he has done since January 2009. Prior to being appointed President, Mr. Kessler was Ashford's Chief Operating Officer and Head of Acquisitions since the Company's formation. Mr. Jafarnia, who holds a B.A. from the University of Texas, a J.D. from Temple University School of Law, and an L.L.M. from Georgetown University Law Center, has over 15 years of experience in the real estate and financial services industry as an attorney, owner, principal, compliance officer and executive. Mr. Jafarnia is currently counsel in the Financial Services & Products Group and a member of the REIT Practice Group in the New York office of Alston & Bird, LLP. Monty J. Bennett commented, "The Board of Directors will be greatly enhanced by the additions of Mr. Kessler and Mr. Jafarnia. Mr. Kessler has already been instrumental in the growth and success of Ashford since its initial public offering and has demonstrated great leadership ability in his role as our President. Mr. Jafarnia has had many years of experience as a real estate securities lawyer in the REIT industry, which will greatly benefit the Company as Ashford continues to grow." The Company's Board of Directors has already initiated a search to fill the last vacancy resulting from the increase in the Board's size.