James Dondero has recently been selected to serve on SMU’s Cox School of Business Executive Board. Dondero is the co-founder and current CEO of Highland Capital Management, an investment advisory company and he now brings 30 years of expertise to the guidance of Cox School of Business’s strategic operations. It’s an honor for Dondero who’s praised the university for its contributions to the Dallas business community, and Highland Capital currently sponsors the Tower Scholars, a public policy scholarship and grant to the university’s library center. For Dondero, it’s another accomplishment in the influence he has had in the greater Dallas area, adding to the boards he serves on at Cornerstone Healthcare and NexBank.
James Dondero has built a successful career in guiding alternative investment practices. He got started at the University of Virginia’s McIntire Business School where he got high honors in both accounting and finance, and began with the Morgan Guaranty training program in analyzing back in 1984. The following year, he was hired by American Express where he became a portfolio manager. He stayed at American Express until 1989 when he went to Protective Life Insurance Corporation where he would meet Mark Okada, the man who would become his business partner. The two men managed the GIC subsidiary of Protective Life, but it became more than a small branch of the company after Dondero and Okada grew client assets under management there to over $2 billion.
That GIC subsidiary would eventually become Highland Capital, and it started out managing funds in the fixed income markets, but today it now manages portfolios in many alternative sectors. Most notably Dondero’s company is one of the largest collateralized loan obligation (CLO) managers, a special kind of security-backed loan that comprises of multiple bank loans. Highland Capital also has investments in private equity, both long and short-term, real estate, health care, and emerging markets. Dondero is also a well-known philanthropist in the Dallas area, even recently making a pledge to match donations up to $1 million to go to a local domestic violence shelter group.
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