James Dondero has been the CEO of Highland Capital Advisors since its founding in 1993 and he’s had a knack for making bold but true predictions in the private equity alternative investments world. Barron’s made note of some of these predictions and highlighted them in their Magazine. It’s no secret that Argentina’s economy faced a lot of chaos when former President Cristina Fernandez deKirchner led the default on its sovereign debt, but under new President Mauricio Macri the nation started becoming profitable, and Dondero had invested in several bonds down there that netted profits in 2015. He also had invested in Vistra Energy which had just about gone under and become unsalvageable, but Dondero saw an opportunity to buy its debt and soon turned it into a profitable company.
James Dondero has come to know the ins and outs of private equity investing since becoming a portfolio manager at American Express. He received his undergraduate degree at the University of Virginia and then enrolled in American Express’s Morgan Guaranty training program to become a chartered financial analyst. He spent several years at American Express before taking over as the Managing Director of Protective Life Insurance Company’s GIC subsidiary. He grew this company from scratch all the way to over $2 billion in assets under management. He later bought out the shares and renamed it to Highland Capital Management.
Dondero is probably most known for offering collateralized loan obligations at Highland Capital. These are basically high-yield but high-risk bonds that have a pool of investors that can offset losses with safer gains. Dondero has brought diverse options for investors at Highland Capital with funds ranging from high-yield credit, distressed situations, long and short-term equity, healthcare and fixed income. He’s expanded Highland Capital into offices in Manhattan and Sao Paulo, Brazil. He’s on the boards of Nexpoint Advisors, Nexbank, CSC Medical, MGM Studios and Cornerstone Healthcare. He’s also involved in charity organizations and recently made a grant to the Dallas domestic violence shelter known as The Family Place. He’s also hosted events to honor military members and support local law enforcement officers.