James Dondero is not the stereotypical investor, at least when it comes to the Myers-Briggs personality test. However, his biography reveals a different personality, one who turned his early successes in collateralized loan obligations into an investment giant, Highland Capital Management.
Based in Dallas, Highland is a $15 billion powerhouse specializing in alernative investments. The success stories of Dondero and his firm include investments in American Airlines and a Texas energy company that faltered despite involvement by billionaire Warren Buffet. Employing ideas promoted by Dondero, Highland provides access by mutual fund investors to opportunities, which are known for their relatively low costs, through his Highland Global Allocation plan. Valued at $894 million, Highland contains fewer than 200 securities, or only about half the number found in most funds, but allows as much as 40 percent of the assets to be concentrated into individual firms or groups of companies.
Dondero attributes his success to the fact that he is a “puzzle solving” manager, or a person who carefully considers complex debt arrangements and emerging trends. However, the 54-year-old investor is otherwise hesitant to say much about himself and could easily fall into the category of an introvert.
Majoring in both accounting and finance, James Dondero graduated from the University of Virginia and is authorized to practice as a certified public accountant, a certified management accountant and a chartered financial analyst. He helped establish Highland Capital Management in 1993 and also serves as the chairman of NexBank, Cornerstone Healthcare and the CCS Medical store.
A resident of Dallas, Dondero is committed to promoting educational opportunities in the region, having provided financial assistance to both learning programs and such establishments as the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Institute, the Perot Museum of Natural Science and Dallas Zoo. In addition to his business activities, Dondero serves as a board member of MGM Studios and American Banknote, the worldwide engraver of currency and postage stamps.