Ziad K. Abdelnour was born in Beirut, Lebanon, where he earned a B.A. in Economics, summa cum laude, from the American University of Beirut. After graduation, he came to the United States, and earned an M.B.A. in Finance from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania in 1984. Since 1985, Ziad has been involved in over 125 transactions worth, in aggregate, over $10 billion in investment banking high-yield bond and distressed debt markets, and has been widely-recognized for playing an integral role in those three key market sectors. According to The New York Times, Ziad “made a fortune on Wall Street…as a junk bond salesman/trader during Michael Milken’s glory days at the powerhouse investment banking firm Drexel Burnham Lambert.”
Ziad is a prominent pro-Lebanon activist and lobbyist on behalf of a free Lebanon and has published, as early as June 2000, a research report entitled “Ending Syria’s Occupation of Lebanon: The U.S. Role” that became the blueprint for a series of policies and activities that led to the Syrian military withdrawal from Lebanon back in 2005. Ziad, labeled the “Baasha of Wall Street,” publishes his own research report, “Ending Syria’s Occupation of Lebanon: The U.S. Role,” which is a major force in shaping the U.S. Lebanon Policy debate toward freedom in his native land. Since 2001 and post 9/11, Ziad has been part of the right wing political establishment, and was instrumental in funding a number of projects, including the bestseller Funding Evil—How Terrorism is Financed and How to Stop It.
Ziad K. Abdelnour is currently president and CEO of Blackhawk Partners, Inc., a New York-based private equity “family office” that focuses on originating, structuring, advising and acting as equity investor in management-led buyouts, strategic minority equity investments, equity private placements, consolidations, buildups, and growth capital financings in companies and projects based both in the U.S. and emerging markets. Blackhawk Partners is also a reliable trader and supplier of a wide range of commodities to industrial and financial consumers globally. The firm’s customers, around the world, rely upon Blackhawk as a source of metals, minerals, crude oil, and oil products. Ziad also serves on the advisory board of DPG Investments, a recognized premier multi-strategy global merchant banking, alternative investment, management, and advisory firm.
1. How do you define success?
Lasting success is stumbling from failure to failure with even more enthusiasm. Keep going like it’s your last day on earth, with a burning fire inside. You can bend, but never, ever break.
2. What is the key to success?
Happiness is the key to success. If you are truly passionate with what you are doing and are relentless in overcoming any obstacle that will come your way, you will be wildly successful. On the other hand, I know for sure that the key to failure is trying to please everyone.
3. Did you always know you would be successful?
Success is really all relative. If you brag about starting at the bottom and making it to the top, you are probably still closer to the bottom. There is no top for people really at the top. There is always more.
4. When faced with adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
My desire to succeed and crush any adversity that comes my way. After all, the most significant opportunities are usually found in times of greatest difficulty. And if you want to be great, you must develop the capacity to face trouble with courage, disappointment with cheerfulness, and triumph with humility.
5. What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
Learned more than one lesson. One of the most important being that no one in the entire world cares more about your own well-being than you. You’ve got to look out for yourself first. Others being: Never give up, trust your instincts and always keep your integrity in check.
6. What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
I practice intense sports, as it keeps me young and alert.
7. What makes a great leader?
The greatest leader is the one that gets his/her people to do the greatest things.
8. What advice would you give to college students about entering the workforce?
Never rely on the government or any company to earn a living. Build your own self and net worth, and then shape the world according to your own vision, working with the smartest people you can find who share your philosophy.
This interview is an excerpt from Success: 30 Interviews with Entrepreneurs & Executives by Jason Navallo.