James Dondero is the co-founder as well as the President of Highland Capital Management, L.P., and has more than 30 years of experience when it comes to the credit and equity markets. He focuses on high-yield and distressed investing, and under his leadership, the firm has been considered to be a pioneer when it comes to developing the collateralized loan obligation market and also as far as advancing credit-oriented solutions goes. Besides the important role he plays in the firm he helped establish, he is also the Chairman and the President of NexPoint Residential Trust, and the Chairman of Cornerstone Healthcare Group Holding, NexBank Capital, and CCS Medical.
His academic track record includes graduating from the University of Virginia, earning the highest honors from the McIntire School of Commerce – majoring in both accounting as well as finance. He began his career in the JP Morgan training program as an analyst back in 1984, and then moved on to being a corporate bond analyst followed by a role as portfolio manager from the year 1985 to 1989 at American Express. Before helping launch Highland Capital Management back in 1993, James Dondero played a role in creating the GIC subsidiary of Protective Life. He served as Chief Investment Officer and from its inception in 1989 until 1993 he had a role in taking the company to more than $2 billion.
Besides being known as an important figure in the world of finance, James Dondero has also earned a reputation as a philanthropist. James Dondero alongside co-founder Mark Okada moved the headquarters of Highland Capital Management from Los Angeles to Dallas, Texas in 1994, where he has been living ever since. Recognizing the impact that the firm can have on the community, James Dondero started focusing on charitable giving. He pointed out that the firm invests in the community by supporting organization which are advancing the area of Dallas in unique ways.
A well-known contribution that Dondero made was for an exhibit at the Dallas Zoo. Back in 2001, the zoo eliminated its hippo habitat, which was a popular attraction. The zoo decided not the bring it back until they would be able to build a suitable habitat. However, that would prove to be a costly venture. James Dondero donated $1 million towards establishing the new habitat and noted that the Dallas Zoo is the kind of organization that his firm, Highland likes to support, pointing out that his firm was proud to assist the zoo in bringing educational opportunities and experiences.
In order to further his philanthropic vision, Dondero joined with former Chief Executive Officer of Woodwall Rodgers Park Foundation, Linda Owen. She contributes to the firm’s foundation in order to make sure the they achieve their goals when it comes to charitable giving, helping them connect to nonprofit agencies and working with the already existing partners within the community in order to maximize the impact that the multi-year grants that Highland provides has on the Dallas area.
With the guidance of Linda Owen, Highland started supporting The Family Place, which is Texas’ biggest provider when it comes to family violence services – offering shelters, education, and professional counseling. The firm issued a $1 million challenge grant which ended up helping the provider reach their fundraising goals ahead of schedule. The fundraiser was part of the Legacy Campaign, with The Family Place aiming to build a new center in Dallas. The $1 million challenge grant gave the campaign a boost in its final stages, with Dondero stating that Highland was impressed with the way the organization took the concept of the campaign from inception to its final stage in only a year.