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Philip Jones, CEO of beleaguered VisitDallas, resigns

Philip Jones, CEO of beleaguered VisitDallas, resigns

VisitDallas Phillip Jones
Phillip Jones is out. Courtesy photo

VisitDallas, the organization that markets Dallas as a tourist destination, announced that Phillip Jones is stepping down as President and CEO, effective immediately.

According to a release, VisitDallas' Board of Directors and Jones came to a "mutual decision" at a board meeting on May 8.

An interim CEO will be announced on May 9, and the Board has begun a search for a full-time successor.

The "nonprofit" convention and visitors bureau has been mired in controversy since results of an audit were published in January that brought attention to the accounting of its expenses and some exorbitant loans granted to Jones.

The organization received more than $146 million in city tax funds between 2013 and 2017, much of it from a hotel occupancy tax.

City auditors blamed the agency for not fulfilling its responsibilities, while city hall officials ignored their oversight responsibilities and failed to collect many millions of dollars on time from VisitDallas.

The agency become a key issue in the city election that took place on May 4, with mayoral candidate Scott Griggs a vocal critic of the tourism agency who publicly questioned Jones' $700,000 annual compensation package.

In a statement, VisitDallas board chair Mark Woelffer thanked Jones for his 15 years of leadership and "great career" at VisitDallas.

"We are proud of the work VisitDallas has accomplished during Phillip’s tenure to promote Dallas, which is now a top 10 destination nationally for meetings, conventions, sporting events, and leisure travel," Woelffer said. "As Phillip has decided to pursue other opportunities, we wish him the very best."

Jones was given a chance to make his own parting statement. "It has been a privilege to lead VisitDallas during an important period of growth for the organization, and now it’s time for my next challenge," he said. "Together with my colleagues at VisitDallas, the City of Dallas and partners across the hospitality and tourism industry, we have positioned Dallas as the top visitor destination in Texas for meetings and events, and one of the top convention and visitor destinations in the nation. I’m proud of our accomplishments and know the organization is on track for continued success."

Incoming board chair Joyce Williams called his contributions "significant and lasting," noting a "five-fold" increase in hotel room bookings, and Dallas' climb from number 18 to number 6 on the country’s top visitor destination list.

"Dallas' Tourism Public Improvement District was created and Dallas was re-branded as a global destination," Williams said. "He led the charge statewide to defeat the 'Bathroom Bill' not just once, but twice. We wish Phillip well and look forward to continuing the great momentum as we welcome new leadership."

Williams will lead the search committee to identify VisitDallas’ next leader and will begin work immediately.

VisitDallas along with Mayor Mike Rawlings will announce an interim CEO during a news conference on May 9 at 11 am at the VisitDallas office at 325 N. St. Paul St.