A Brief History of the Career of James Dondero
If you are looking for information about James Dondero, the co-founder and president of Highland Capital Management, you’ve come to the right place. The 54-year-old native of Hoboken, NJ, quickly rose through the ranks in his storied career. As evidenced by the article that is linked to on this page, he continues to enjoy a lot of attention and respect from the industry at large. Any time his firm, Highland Capital Management, makes a major move, it is covered extensively by industry press. This is clear evidence of James Dondero’s continued influence, even after more than three decades of experience in the credit and equity markets.Before looking closer at James Dondero’s background, let’s take a look at where he is today. First and foremost, he is the president and co-founder of Highland Capital Management, which is based in Dallas, Texas. He is also on the Boards of Directors of MGM Studios and American Banknote, and he is Chairman of the Board of Cornerstone Healthcare, CCS Medical Corporation and NexBank. He actively facilitates charitable measures through Highland Capital, including supporting emerging non-profits through a $300-million, donor-endorsed fund that directs approximately $3.5 million per year of funding at targeted firms. He also supports Reasoning Mind, a tech-based math curriculum for pre-kindergarten through grade seven that is relied on by low-income schools in remote areas.
Early in his life, James Dondero planned to work in real estate investing for a living. This is what he wanted to do when he was accepted into the University of Virginia’s prestigious McIntire School of Commerce. After four years, he came away with a bachelor of science degree with a dual major in accounting and finance. He also earned high honors, which is no easy feat. He moved from school directly into a position as an analyst at the Morgan Guaranty Training Program, which afforded him many crucial connections.Thanks to his experiences in school and immediately after, James Dondero took a position as a corporate bond analyst for American Express in 1985. During his time at American Express, he managed around $1 billion in fixed income funds for the company. He remained there until 1989, which is when he and his business partner, Mark Okada, started working on an idea of their own. They entered into a joint venture with the Protective Life Insurance Corporation in 1990 that resulted in the creation of PAMCO, or Protective Asset Management Company. He served as Chief Investment Officer and grew the firm from a startup to a $2-billion business.
Protective Life continued to own a majority share of the firm until 1997, when James Dondero and his partner bought out their stake to assume full control. The very next year, they renamed the venture Highland Capital Management, and that has been the name ever since. Initially, Highland Capital was located in Los Angeles. For a number of reasons, however, they relocated the company to Dallas fairly early on. It has remained there since, and the firm has opened several offices around the globe as well.As for why James Dondero continues to be in the industry news so often, it largely has to do with the fact that he is such an esteemed figure in the industry. After all, he was a pioneer in the early days of Collateralized Loan Obligation markets, or CLO markets. The latest news regarding Dondero is linked to in the article on this page. It involves a cooperation agreement between Highland Capital Management and RAIT Financial Trust, which is a real estate investment trust, or REIT, that specializes in providing direct lending to owners of commercial real estate.The two firms entered into a cooperation agreement after Highland Capital disclosed to the SEC that its holdings were approaching 5.3 million shares, which meant that Highland Capital owned 5.9 percent of RAIT’s outstanding common shares. As such, James Dondero and the top executive team wanted representation on RAIT’s Board of Trustees. The agreement that was reached dictates that RAIT will appoint a trustee who has been recommended by Highland Capital after certifying the vote from its 2017 Annual Meeting of Shareholders. Another recommended trustee will be appointed within 120 days of the date on which the agreement was reached.