Ziad K. Abdelnour stands as a beacon in the world of finance and strategic corporate investments. As the Founder, President, and CEO of Blackhawk Partners, Inc., a distinguished private “family office,” he has been at the forefront of structuring and participating as an equity investor in numerous corporate ventures. Beyond his role at Blackhawk, Abdelnour wears many hats: he’s the Founder and Chairman of the Financial Policy Council, a non-profit that fosters direct dialogues with the nation’s top policymakers; the Chairman of the Advisory Board of Hawkstorm Global, a firm renowned for its elite security and risk assessment services; and the author of best-sellers such as “Economic Warfare” and “Startup Saboteurs.”
With over three decades on Wall Street, Abdelnour’s expertise has been instrumental in backing over 125 companies and serial entrepreneurs, representing an aggregate worth of over 20 billion dollars. His academic credentials, an MBA in Finance Summa Cum Laude from the Wharton School and a BS in Economics Summa Cum Laude from the American University of Beirut, further underscore his profound understanding of the financial domain.
Today, Abdelnour’s voice resonates across media channels globally, solidifying his reputation as one of the world’s top business leaders. In this candid interview, he shares his journey, insights, and the principles that have guided his illustrious career.
What Sparked Your Interest In Your Industry? How Did You Start Your Journey?
It all began with the collapse of the investment banking powerhouse, Drexel Burnham Lambert, where I was a part. This juggernaut firm transformed the landscape of Corporate America through the creation and commercialization of the junk bond market, led by its czar, Michael Milken. This experience taught me that no matter how formidable the firm you work for, circumstances can shift rapidly. There’s a vast difference between being in “charge” and being in “control.”
This realization propelled me into my entrepreneurial journey with Blackhawk Partners. I approach business with the mindset of a military strategist, believing that business is WAR.
My mentors and inspirations are larger-than-life figures. On the political front, individuals like JFK, Ronald Reagan, Donald Trump, and Winston Churchill have inspired me. On the business side, luminaries such as John D. Rockefeller, JP Morgan, Michael Milken, and Elon Musk have been my guiding stars. These remarkable individuals have imparted lessons of tenacity, relentlessness, smart thinking, and decisive action.
In essence, I am a “financial disruptor.” After all, only dead fish go with the flow.
What Is The Idea Behind Your Company? What Core Missions Do You Value The Most?
Our values are very simple. They consist of;
We foster the highest level of professionalism, personal ownership, and entrepreneurial spirit in all our team members, ensuring their well-being is never compromised. This ethos is pivotal to our success and the superior returns we aim to achieve for all our stakeholders.
Every day, we strive to uphold high standards of service, business conduct, and product quality. Recognizing our responsibility to our customers, suppliers, and the communities where we operate, we are committed to maintaining the highest quality standards throughout our operations.
We value relationships and communication based on integrity, co-operation, transparency and mutual beneﬁt with our people, our customers, our suppliers, governments and society in general.
Our rigorous investment approach remains consistent across all investment avenues, rooted in extensive due diligence. Leveraging our vast transactional expertise, we maintain a keen emphasis on capital preservation while aiming to deliver attractive returns. Operational improvement is central to much of the value we generate. We are unwavering in our commitment to securing the best long-term results for our businesses and investments.
We take a flexible, opportunistic investment approach that is not anchored to any single geography, industry, transaction structure or size. The common denominator is our focus on investments and trading opportunities that can drive value-creation. We are known for focusing our resources on a diverse range of opportunities, such as build-ups, growth capital and buyouts to create wealth for all concerned..
What Have Been The Major Challenges You Faced When Starting Your Company And How Do You Face Failure?
I’ve faced numerous challenges and failures in my life, which, in turn, paved the way for even greater successes. Ultimately, we often learn more from our failures than from our successes.
Bottom Line: It all boils down to risk and how one manages it.
At its core, we at Blackhawk view risk management as an issue deeply rooted in corporate culture. For effective long-term risk management, employees must prioritize the firm’s welfare and the preservation of crucial client relationships above all else. Risk is an inherent part of business, and perfection in its management is unattainable.
Thus, my team and I firmly believe that the three absolutely indispensable pillars of our success in managing risk are: Escalation, Accountability, and Culture.
Escalation involves communicating risk concerns to higher management tiers, ensuring multiple perspectives on potential problem risks, and challenging the idea that a business group leader should make independent decisions on risks that impact the entire firm.
Accountability means recognizing that individuals are responsible for their business groups’ actions. Equally vital is holding senior management accountable for evaluating all risk facets, including assessing the quality of the partners the firm collaborates with.
Culture is our most potent risk shield. We ensure that partners engaged in control functions receive as much recognition, prestige, and compensation as those leading businesses. We also emphasize the importance of regularly rotating partners between risk control and business operations.
In essence, I believe that the primary risks of any responsible firm don’t stem from proprietary trading but from facilitating client objectives. Being an adept M&A advisor, for instance, entails offering actionable advice. This often necessitates the advisory firm to back the client through capital and other balance sheet commitments.
How Do You Market Your Business And Which Tactics Have Been Most Successful To Stay Ahead In This Highly Competitive Market?
I employ a “pull strategy” rather than a “push strategy” to promote my work and activities, ensuring that the content and services I provide are unparalleled. I’ve never made a cold call in my life. Individuals seek me out because of the exceptional “value” I offer, combined with the brainpower, capital, and resources I bring to the table.
For instance, I am currently working on a book titled “Capitalism from the Inside Out: How the 99% Can Build Wealth, Fight Crony Capitalism, and Restore America’s Promise.” This revolutionary work, set to release soon, promises to disrupt conventional business practices, guiding readers on how to amass genuine wealth and influence.
How Do You Adapt To Technological Trends? Do You Think Ai Can Enhance The Way Businesses Work?
I am primarily a tech financier, and I fully embrace the latest technological trends. No aspect of technology intimidates me.
Regarding AI, I’m concerned that it’s currently being employed to craft a biased narrative, influencing our perceptions and understanding of history.
AI seems to have its own set of “Memory Hole” taboo topics and appears to be designed to instill in us “approved” ways of thinking and speaking. The traditional role of families in imparting proper attitudes and values to children is being overshadowed by this “woke” AI, which I find deeply concerning.
While AI offers numerous benefits, particularly in the medical field and various other industries, its implications in geopolitics and power dynamics can be potentially dangerous. It’s disheartening to see independent thinking being sidelined, as it might lead to conclusions that deviate from official narratives. This could result in a world devoid of critical thought, where individuals merely accept the narratives presented to them. In essence, this could signal the end of civilization, a sentiment echoed by Elon Musk.
What Are Your Future Career Plans And Company Goals?
One lesson I learned a long time ago, which has proven immensely beneficial over the years, is this: Never disclose your income, net worth, or future plans to anyone. It’s nobody’s business.
What Is One Of The Best Or Most Worthwhile Investments You’ve Ever Made?
Throughout my career, I’ve made numerous investments. Hence, pinpointing the best one is challenging. They’ve varied in size and nature. Here are my strongest recommendations:
- Invest in companies you genuinely believe in.
- Price and value aren’t synonymous: Avoid overpaying.
- Reputation is paramount.
- Maintain a healthy skepticism. If something appears too good to be true, it probably isn’t.
- Avoid investing in what you don’t comprehend.
- Never strike a deal with someone you can’t trust.
- Only invest in a company if you perceive it as undervalued.
- Price dips present opportunities to augment your positions.
- Challenging times reveal both winners and losers.
- Dedicate time to reading and contemplation.
- A high IQ isn’t a prerequisite for business success — knowledge holds greater value.
- Remember, you are your most valuable asset.
Do You Have Any Advice For Those Who Are Starting Out In This Industry?
- Be relentless. You’ll encounter numerous obstacles, and 99% of people will give up.
- Be patient; overnight success often takes 15 years.
- Prioritize your health.
- Learn to manage stress effectively.
- Seize opportunities when they present themselves.
Connect with Ziad K Abdelnour on LinkedIn.