Tony Petrello, the president and CEO of oil drilling tech titan Nabors Industries, is perhaps best known for his wealth. One of the highest-paid CEOs in the country, Petrello has spear-headed the success of Nabors for more than 20 years.
Nabors Industries is an oilfield service company and contract driller that has grown steadily since its inception, acquiring smaller businesses in its field to become a stand-out name in the industry and largest business of its kind in the world. With presence in 25 countries spread across hundreds of active drilling rigs, Nabors has more than earned the success that had led to its CEO’s high rate of pay.
Nevertheless, a closer look at Tony Petrello paints a different picture of the CEO than an earnings report would suggest. Aside from being a successful leader, Petrello is also a dedicated philanthropist with a true passion for the charitable causes he promotes.
A Personal Interest
For many high earners, philanthropy is treated as a hobby or inevitable side effect of wealth and tax breaks. This is not the case for Petrello, whose passion for medical research and patient care has driven his charitable giving.
Along with his wife, Cynthia, Tony Petrello has committed to $7 million in donations toward the growth and development of the Jan and Duncan Neurological Research Institute, located at the Texas Children’s Hospital of Houston. The NRI is committed to researching the causes and treatments of neurological issues in infants and children, specifically with an eye toward helping brain-damaged youth overcome their physical and mental disabilities.
For Petrello, this cause hits close to home. His daughter, Carena, suffers from periventricular leukomalacia (PVL), a neurological disease caused by premature birth and low birth weight. It has led to a number of physical impairments, including delayed motor skills, difficulty with speech and problems walking and feeding herself.
Carena Petrello’s case is by no means unique, and struggles like hers are felt by parents worldwide. Knowing that and understanding the lengths to which parents will go for answers, Tony Petrello began to search for a solution.
Drawing upon his experience in mathematics, Petrello hoped to find a logical or well-ordered solution to the problem at hand. What he discovered, however, was that doctors knew very little about childhood neurological diseases. He was quickly frustrated to discover a lack of large-scale brain research that could help children like his daughter.
With a drive to improve conditions for children like his daughter and the resources to support this ambition, Petrello teamed up with the Texas Children’s Hospital to help fund its neurological research center. In 2006, he donated $7 million toward the development and expansion of the Neurological Research Institute, and he’s been an ongoing supporter of the foundation over the past decade.
He also plays an active role in his community and the hospital itself. A member of the Board of Trustees, Petrello is intimately familiar and interested in the success and further development of the hospital and its research efforts.
Other Charitable Contributions
Although childhood medical research is an issue near and dear to Petrello’s heart, it’s not his only area of philanthropic interest. The CEO and Yale alumni has also helped contribute to an endowment for an annual prize offered to promising students at his alma mater.
The prize, offered in the memory of professor Serge Lang, is reserved for students and others offering meaningful contributions to the field of mathematics. Petrello has already donated $150,000 to the award and promises to match up to $150,000 in additional donations, hoping for a final endowment of $450,000 for the annual prize.
Details of the prize and how it shall be awarded are still being discussed, but the funds are meant to honor the memory of a beloved professor who contributed to the lives of many students, including Tony Petrello.
Serge Lang acted as a mentor to Petrello, who met him at the beginning of his freshman year in 1972. It was Lang’s first year as a professor at Yale, and the two grew close throughout Petrello’s time at the university and in the years that followed.
By contributing to the prize, Petrello hopes to both honor the memory of his long-time friend and mentor as well as encourage further growth, passion and experimentation in the field of mathematics.
About Tony Petrello
A native of Newark, New Jersey, Petrello has surprisingly blue-collar roots for such a high-earning CEO. A public school student who attended Yale on a scholarship, his early interests were in mathematics and, later, law. After pursuing undergraduate and graduate degrees in mathematics at Yale, he went on to attend Harvard Law School and sought early employment at a legal firm. His future, however, would not be with law and accounting; instead, an opportunity opened in the oil and gas industry that would turn out to be irresistible.
He soon found a job as president of Nabors and became committed to the company’s growth and success. He quickly moved from president to Chief Operations Officer to Chief Executive Officer. Through a series of smart acquisitions and clever business choices, Nabors Industries has become the largest oil and gas contractor in the world, and it’s poised for steady growth throughout the future of drilling in the post-fracking oil economy. The ongoing success of Petrello’s business endeavors means, undoubtedly, that he will have more opportunities to contribute to the local community.