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Visit Dallas appoints interim head to replace ousted CEO Phillip Jones

Visit Dallas appoints interim head to replace ousted CEO Phillip Jones

VisitDallas Phillip Jones
Former Visit Dallas CEO Phillip Jones Courtesy photo

VisitDallas, the organization that markets Dallas as a tourist destination, has appointed an interim head to replace former president/CEO Phillip Jones, who stepped down on May 8.

The new interim CEO will be Sam Coats, one-time mayoral candidate and the former chairman of the board of directors for the Dallas Fort Worth International Airport. Mayor Mike Rawlings announced the replacement at a press conference on May 9.

Jones' ouster came after a "mutual decision" at a board meeting on May 8. He's getting a severance package worth $600,000, paid out over 12 months.

Coats has served on a number of boards such as Texas Instruments, and was a one-time president and CEO of the Schlotzsky's restaurant chain. He served in senior management positions at four airlines, including Braniff, Southwest, and Continental, and is also a former board chairman of the Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau.

He also ran for mayor in 2007, losing to Tom Leppert, and notably was against the Trinity toll road.

He has served as a state representative in the Texas Legislature, representing Dallas County, and was chairman of the North Dallas Chamber of Commerce. In 2006, he helped negotiate the phase out of the Wright Amendment.

The press conference was interrupted by a group calling itself Dallas One City, led by activist Bruce Carter. In a video posted by NBC 5 reporter Ken Kalthoff, Carter can be seen confronting VisitDallas marketing officer Frank Librio, asking why members of their group are not allowed inside.

VisitDallas 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.