James Dondero, Highland Capital Management, and his Career

James Dondero is one of the most successful businesspeople in the entire United States, arguably best known for his foundation and operation of Highland Capital Management, currently holding over 13.5 billion dollars’ worth of assets, all of which are contributed by corporations. Mr. Dondero wasn’t ever fed with a silver spoon or handed a position as an executive – instead, he built he path to the top from scratch.

Mr. Dondero went to the University of Virginia’s McIntire School of Commerce. Knowing that he truly wanted to be involved in something related to finance, he picked up the double major of accounting and finance, normally requiring five years to complete. He got an internship at Morgan Guaranty, which is now part of JP Morgan Chase, in 1984, just a few short months prior to his graduation. Even though he had goth work and school on his proverbial plate, he graduated with the highest honors possible, both Beta Alpha Pi and Beta Gamma Sigma.

Not very long after graduating, he then got the certifications of CMA and CFA, which stand for Certified Management Accountants and Chartered Financial Analyst, respectively. He picked both of these titles up because they would most likely help him out in the field of finance, which they obviously have proven to accomplish.

Mr. James Dondero was named to staff at American Express in 1985. Prior to him leaving the agency in 1989, he managed more than one billion dollars’ worth of fixed income funds, something that very few 20-somethings get the privilege of doing.

It was in 1989 that he became the chief investment officer of an insurance group called GIC, a subsidiary in the understory of Protective Life Insurance Company. In 1993, prior to the structure of this subsidiary changed significantly, its valuation grew to an amazing $2 billion, making him one of the most successful CIOs of his time. That same year, Mark Okada and James Dondero purchased a 40% stake in the organization. Just four years later, with the help of business partner Mark Okada, James Dondero purchased the entire organization, renaming it Highland Capital Management.


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