Tony Petrello is probably best known in the international business community as the president and CEO of Nabors Industries (NYSE: NBR). He has served in some executive capacity at Nabors Industries since 1991, and has proudly been steering the company in a positive direction ever since. Tony is responsible for the significant expansion of Nabors Industries in recent years. He has taken the company to new heights in its dominance of the on-shore and off-shore oil drilling markets. In addition to providing top-notch drilling services around the world, Nabors Industries also offers some of the largest and safest drilling rigs in almost every market.
Although Tony Petrello has been widely praised for the tremendous work he has done on behalf of Nabors Industries, he is receiving even more positive press these days for his involvement in charitable causes and his generous philanthropic donations. They say everything is bigger in Texas, and this could not be truer of Tony’s generous spirit and devotion to his community. For example, Tony and his wife Cynthia have committed themselves have made a $5 million initial donation to help found the Jan and Dan Duncan Neurological Research Institute at Texas Children’s Hospital. They are also slated to give an additional $2 million to the hospital in the coming years. These donations will enable children to receive top-notch treatment from the world’s leading doctors and surgeons in their fight against debilitating and life-threatening neurological disorders.
The Petrellos remain dedicated to the continued development of the Jan and Dan Duncan Neurological Research Institute, which is the first such center in the world devoted to the study and treatment of these disorders in children. They also served as chairs for the most recent fundraising campaign for Texas Children’s Hospital, which was the largest such effort in the institution’s history, bringing in over $500 million.
This cause is very personal for Tony and Cynthia Petrello. Their daughter, Carena, suffers from periventricular leukomalacia (PVL), which also caused her to develop cerebral palsy. She developed this condition as a result of insufficient blood flow to her brain as an infant. Carena was born prematurely at 24 weeks, weighing just 20 ounces. PVL is a commonly occurring neurological disorder in premature infants.
The Petrellos’ daughter has had to learn how to do some of the most basic functions that other children pick up naturally during their development. Tony and Cynthia have been committed to finding the best care for their daughter and have done everything possible to work with her developmental disabilities throughout her life. This has given Tony incredible perspective on the needs of sick children around the world, and he has used his time, talents and resources to do whatever he can to help them in their fight.
“It’s very confusing for parents, not knowing what the signs are and never expecting to have a child with a neurological disorder,” Cynthia Petrello has said regarding Carena’s condition. “Tony and I are used to being able to fix things. You set a goal and you achieve it. We were really brought to our knees.”
Tony Petrello, a member of the Texas Children’s Hospital Board of Trustees, looked into pediatric research institutions in America, Europe, and other areas but found that there was a shortage of resources on some childhood neurological disorders and methods of treating them. He saw that to really make an impact on such conditions large scale translational research was required. “There are a few places that focus on brain research for adults, but I can’t find anything for kids. There’s an incredible need that is not being met, and yet at the same time, there’s an incredible opportunity,” he said.
The ultimate goal of the Neurological Research Institute is to find a cure for the neurological disorders affecting children of all ages. Tony says that he and Cynthia wife have never given up hope that this will happen at some point during their daughter’s lifetime. They have been extremely complimentary of the doctors who have devoted their professional lives to finding a cure and working to ease the suffering of children afflicted with neurological disorders. Tony and Cynthia Petrello are frequent guest speakers at conventions for parents and family members of children touched by neurological disorders. They are always very open and candid in sharing their story in the hopes that it could bring peace and inspiration to other families faced with this enormous challenge. Even though they both have extremely busy schedules, Tony and Cynthia are the first to volunteer for charitable events and speaking or writing opportunities whenever they think it can benefit the fight to end neurological disorders for good.
When Tony Petrello speaks about the trials and tribulations of raising a daughter with a severe developmental disability, he shares that it was the most humbling thing he has ever experienced. No amount of perseverance or willpower on his part can solve the ultimate issue afflicting his daughter, which is why Tony has been so involved in connecting with doctors and researchers who are committed to curing these disorders. He knows that his resources are best spent in the support of others’ talents and is quick to credit all of the positive progress that his daughter has been making recently to the talents of her doctors and the girl’s resolve, bolstered by the steadfast love and encouragement of her parents. This is a powerful message for many families to hear because they often feel helpless in figuring out how to live their lives the best way possible for their children.
Speaking of his daughter, Tony Petrello has said: “She makes us and everyone around us feel like you’re in front of someone that’s been put here for a greater purpose. We have great support from family and friends and a belief that at the end of the tunnel, there is some light. There is something that’s going to make it a better day.”
Tony and Cynthia Petrello’s Journey to Houston
Raised in a middle-class household in Newark, New Jersey, Tony Petrello’s intelligence and drive took him to Yale University where he excelled in math, among other subjects. His brilliance with calculations and theorems caught the eye of world-class mathematician professor Serge Lang, who became his mentor at the school.
While he decided not to follow professor Lang in seeking a career in academia, Tony’s smarts have served him well on his chosen path, helping propel him to success in almost every business venture that he has undertaken. Before he joined Nabors Industries in an executive capacity, Tony Petrello had a very successful law practice at the Baker & McKenzie law firm. He served as a managing partner and was known for his in-depth knowledge and practical experience in corporate taxation issues. Clients flocked to work with Tony due to his ability to break down complex legal issues into discernable solutions. He was always willing and able to rise to the challenge and never shied away from an opportunity to help a client in a tough situation.
In 1991, Tony Petrello accepted a job offer from Nabor Industries, one of the law firm’s leading clients, to become president and chief operating officer. Ten years later, in 2011, Tony became CEO of the company. Tony has been applying the invaluable skills that he accumulated as an attorney in his executive roles at Nabors Industries ever since he left Baker & McKenzie. His leadership vision has proven to be very forward-thinking and based on the collaboration of talented team members.
In addition to owning and operating the largest land-based fleet of drilling rigs in the world, Nabors is also among the leaders in offshore platform workover and drilling rigs both in the U.S. and a number of international markets. The company can also offer innovative drilling technology, drilling instrumentation, and directional drilling operations along with software to manage it all. Its subsidiaries offer additional oilfield services and equipment, including the manufacture and sale of tip drives, catwalks, drawworks, wrenches, and other equipment used in drilling that can be on either onshore or offshore rigs.
Tony Petrello is always looking for ways to incorporate the talents and experience of his team members and is known for his collaborative leadership style. Tony says that this is one of the reasons why Nabors Industries has been able to find new and innovative ways to stay at the very top of the oil drilling industry. He has expertly capitalized on the talents of the top engineers at Nabors Industries to expand their operations into new areas and perform each project more efficiently than before.
Along with all of the amazing operational advancements that Tony Petrello has helped achieve at Nabors Industries, he has also been responsible for drastically increasing its profits through his knowledge of corporate tax law. It is rare that such a large corporation is able to land and retain an executive who has specialized knowledge of corporate taxation issues as well as the vision to take an international company into uncharted territory. While many corporate tax experts are averse to risk and prefer to stay in their sandbox, Tony goes beyond the conventional with his strategies. He is always pushing the boundaries to see what he can do to help Nabors Industries become the premier choice in off-shore oil drilling.
Among the bold moves made by the company under Tony Petrello’s tenure are the contract it signed in October of 2016 with Saudi Aramco to create a joint venture called SANAD, and a Memorandum of Understanding inked in June of 2017 with Russian company Gazprom, a leader in that country’s oil industry. The company has also made some splashy acquisitions with Tony at the helm, for instance, entering into an agreement to purchase Tesco Corporation in a transaction financed entirely by stock in August of 2017. Also in August of 2017, the company continued its strategy of seeking growth through acquisitions by announcing that it was acquiring Robotic Drilling Systems (RDS) from Odfiell Drilling of Norway. By the end of 2017, Nabors had operations in 25 countries globally.
When asked what might be next on the horizon for Nabors Industries under his direction, Tony Petrello has responded that only time will tell. The company has been heading in such a positive direction that investors are more than willing to keep pouring funds into the company and reaping the rewards. As excited as he is about the company’s direction and its growth potential, Tony remains as committed as ever to using his position to benefit the community and society as a whole as well as his shareholders. In this regard, he has stated that charitable donations and social responsibility must keep pace with the company’s growth.
Under Tony Petrello’s leadership to date, Nabors Industries has an excellent record of being both a successful corporate enterprise and a good corporate citizen. A sterling example of this occurred in the wake of the devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey in 2017. With many homes destroyed and streets flooded, getting supplies where they were needed could be done only with great difficulty. Tony saw to it that the employees of Nabors Industries were able to get time off work to assist with the hurricane recovery efforts. As a sign of the company’s commitment to helping the community recover, Nabors provided paid time off to staff who helped out. Additionally, Tony matched the relief donations made by the company’s employees to the Nabors Disaster Relief Fund, which amounted to $173,622 before his contribution. Nabors took the additional step of placing its on-site kitchen at the service of the relief efforts, using it to cook hot meals multiple times each day for local residents.
Nabors Industries has engaged in a wide variety of charitable efforts with Tony at the helm. The company has donated to a variety of organizations including Bike MS and the Susan G. Komen Foundation. The company has set up the Nabors Charitable Foundation which has given out more than $3 million in educational scholarships to employees and their children.
As a staunch supporter of education, in addition to helping company employees and their children further their education, Tony has pledged to donate no less than $150,000 in the name of Professor Serge Lang through an endowment fund. He made the pledge after attending the memorial service of his mentor, who earned the life-long devotion of Tony and many other Yale graduates who encountered professor him during his long tenure at Yale.
Cynthia Petrello (nee Carrafa), is an actress, dancer, and producer. She and Tony were college sweethearts before they were married. She is originally from Connecticut but moved with her husband to Houston when he took a job with Nabors Industries. She appeared in a number of episodes of “All My Children” as an actress and has also had roles in several Off-Broadway plays. Additionally, she has performed as a professional dancer in numerous productions on the New York stage. She produced the movie Deceit, a thriller, and also produced the Off-Broadway play “Impassioned Embraces” by John Pielmeier.
After graduation from Albertus Magnus College in Connecticut with a degree in political science, Cynthia studied Italian and art history at the Universita per Stranieri located in Perugia, Italy, and French decorative arts at the Cooper-Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum.
Along with her husband, she has made her mark in Houston as a leading philanthropist. They started the Petrello Family Foundation, which is dedicated to supporting improvement in education, the performing arts, and medical care. Along with Tony, she received the 2011 Smithsonian Woodrow Wilson Aware for Public Service, honoring them for their extensive philanthropic activities.
Cynthia is involved with a wide variety of charitable and cultural organizations, serving on the boards of the Houston Grand Opera, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the Periwinkle Foundation, and the Cinema Arts Society. She has served as the chair or hosted a number of charity events in the city which have been responsible for raising millions of dollars in donations, including annual galas for the Brookwood Community and the Houston Grand Opera, along with the annual luncheon for the United Cerebral Palsy of Greater Houston.
She has been honored by the Connecticut General Assembly for creating and providing the funds for a Women’s Studies Program for students of Sacred Heart High School, which she attended in her youth. The program was the first of its type to be established in a Catholic high school. Over twenty years, she has provided six scholarships benefiting young women from Sacred Heart via a named scholarship fund.
In addition to devoting time to her extensive philanthropic work and her duties as a wife and mother, Cynthia Petrello is also known as a woman with a strong sense of fashion. She was named to the Houston Chronicle’s best-dressed list in 2005, 2008, and 2018, earning her a place in the style Hall of Fame. When interviewed by the Houston Chronicle for the 2015 award, Cynthia cited a famous quote of Judy Garland’s when asked what guided her personal style: “always be a first-rate version of yourself and not a second-rate version of someone else.”