The Man Who Beat the Odds: Anthony Petrello

Anthony Petrello (Tony) is the Chairman and CEO of Nabors Industries Ltd, one of the largest oil and gas drilling contractor. Based in Hamilton, Bermuda the contracting company has operations spanning locations that include: North America, the Middle East, the Far East, and Africa. It also has a operating headquarters in Houston, Texas. He also serves on the Nabors Board of Directors and the Executive Committee of the Board.

Petrello is the top grossing chief executive in the U.S. Nothing was handed to him on a silver platter. He worked hard to get to where he is and overcame a lot of obstacles. Born in Newark, New Jersey and raised in a working class family he’s exceeded all expectations and then some. Who would’ve ever thought the skinny kid from Jersey with the heavy Italian accent would be where he is today.

Anthony Petrello got his first career opportunity in 1979 when he took a job with the Baker & McKenzie law firm. While there, he primarily dealt with matters that involved international arbitration, taxation and general corporate law. He received a promotion to Managing Partner for the firm’s New York office in 1986. He decided to leave the law firm five years later in 1991.

Petrello is also an avid philanthropist. He and his wife donated $7 million in seed funding for a neurological research center at Texas Children’s Hospital. The two have been strong supporters of the research since their 8 year old daughter, Carena, was born prematurely and diagnosed with periventricular leukomalacia (PVL), a common neurological disease in premature infants caused by a lack of oxygen or blood flow to the brain. Because of this Carena developed cerebral palsy. The condition has severely impaired her motor skills and at age eight she sill has trouble walking and talking, as well as, feeding herself. The Petrellos are determined to find a cure for their daughter’s sake.

Petrello attended both Harvard Law School and Yale University. He holds a J.D. degree from Harvard and B.S. and M.S. degrees in Mathematics from Yale.

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The steps that it has taken Highlands Capital management to achieve their current level of success

The investment ideas that people had a few decades back include working your way through life, getting to retirement and then maybe accessing retirement benefits through the 401Ks. However, things have really changed with time and there are hundreds of other investment ideas that are now permeating the industry. Similarly, there are other companies that are coming up to offer their clients a platform where they can make these other investments and that is what Highlands Capital Management, under the leadership of James Dondero and Mark Okada, has been offering. When the company started, they had limited staff and close to no following. Yet now, they have one of the largest followings in the country and their products portfolio has been improving a lot with time.

The company was started in the early nineties with a handful of staff members. They James and Mark could hardly raise the money that they needed to keep the company operational, but they kept trying. Currently, after being in business for close to three decades, the company has expanded their asset base to 15 billion dollars and they are still growing. The types of investments that they invest in include Long only funds, CLOs, hedge funds, pension plans, high net worth individuals and other different investment types.

The first ideal that the company adopted and believes to have helped them succeed is going beyond the normal analysis of the financial market they are making their operations in. They wanted to be surrounded by a community that was more deeply involved in their activities. This is what led to the different volunteerism initiatives that they have been part of. Other initiatives that have made things better for them include a decision that they made in the year 2000 to create a bank loan fund for their customers that couldn’t get a banking assistance from the conventional banking platforms.

About James Dondero

James Founded the Highlands Capital Management Group with Mark Okada. Before starting the business, he was working with America Express and several other companies, which gave him the experience he has grown his company with.