The James Dondero story is one of those stories that sounds too good to be true. After receiving accounting and finance degrees from the University of Virginia, Jim Dondero decided to go to work for JP Morgan. Jim got four years of investment experience at JP Morgan, but American Express came calling and he accepted the call. Jim managed fixed income funds while he learned how to navigate the unchartered investment territory of alternative credit strategies at American express. Dondero made a name for himself at American Express, so Protective Life’s GIC subsidiary named him CIO in 1989. By 1993, he was ready to jump in the investment world on his own, so Jim and fellow investment banker Mark Okada started Highland Capital Management. In 1994, Jim moved his new company’s headquarters to Dallas from Los Angeles.
Dallas is one of those innovative American cities that attract big companies and big spenders. Twenty-two fortune 500 companies call Dallas home. Most Texans say the Dallas-Fort Worth area is not just business mecca; it’s a fun-loving metropolis that can’t get enough football or Tex-Mex food. The two-city metropolis has a population of 7.2 million, and several attractions bring tourist to the city from all over the world. The Dallas Zoo and the Dallas Symphony as well as the Museum of Art, and the Perot Museum of Nature and Science have one thing in common. Jim plays a role in keeping those non-profits alive with money, friendship, and his business knowledge.
Today, Highland Capital Management is one of the largest investment firms in the United States in terms of assets under management. The company has more than $17 billion in assets under management. The firm has offices in New York, Singapore, Seoul, and Sao Paulo so Highland Capital’s investment specialists can stay on top of emerging markets. Jim focuses on asset management, and Okada is the company’s CFO.
But Jim is more than an asset manager. He is a philanthropist who makes sure the non-profits in the Dallas area do what they do without worrying about the next donation. And the thing that makes Jim so special is, he physically helps the University of Texas Center for BrainHealth, and Southern Methodist University’s Bush Center function in a way that makes every Dallasite proud. Highland Capital funds keep the Dallas Zoo alive, and the funds Highland Capital earmarks for non-profits like the Family Place, a haven for domestic violence abuse shows the compassion exists with the Highland Capital organization. The Dallas Symphony, the Perot Museum of Nature and Science and The Dallas Museum of Art also receive financial help from the Highland Capital Foundation.
Highland Capital’s recent $10 million endowment to the Bush Center is one of the highlights of Jim’s philanthropic career. That endowment enabled the Bush Center to start the free Engage Series lectures. The first lecture in that series gave Dallas something other big cities didn’t have in terms of social and political awareness. Chief Justice Antonin Scalia’s son, Christopher Scalia, came to the Bush Center to talk about his father’s amazing Supreme Court career.
The Highland Dallas Foundation keeps Jim and his Highland capital team busy. That foundation works with the CEO of the Dallas Foundation, Mary Jalonick. Highland Capital Management Foundation grants help people who need more than money to get back into the thriving Dallas society. The Highland Capital Foundation gives the Dallas community social support as well as financial support.
Highland Capital has a reputation for being a social leader in Dallas. But Jim doesn’t take credit for all the great work his organization does for Dallas. Jim says his company is part of a community effort to keep Dallas ahead of the curve when it comes to social initiatives and charitable donations.