Dallas hotelier who laid off 95% of staff got biggest check from PPP fund

Monty Bennett’s lodging business has been hit hard by the pandemic. He said Ashford Inc. and its subsidiaries have laid off or furloughed 95% of their 7,000 employees. An affiliated company, the owner of 117 hotels, stopped making payments on most of its $4 billion in debt, he said.

But during the crisis, Mr. Bennett and other preferred shareholders still got paid millions of dollars in preferred dividends. At one of the companies, Ashford Hospitality Trust, payments to third-party preferred shareholders were declared by its board of directors, of which Mr. Bennett is chairman. At the trust’s adviser, Ashford Inc., where Mr. Bennett serves as chief executive and chairman, the board announced a preferred dividend payment to Mr. Bennett and his father.

Ashford Hospitality Trust, a real-estate investment trust, has been an active participant in the federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program. The company’s subsidiaries have received about $30 million from 42 loans and expect to receive more, according to an April 21 public filing. That amount is the largest of the more than 100 public company disclosures related to these loans reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.