Anthony G. Petrello was America’s highest paid CEO in 2015. He earned almost $68 million as Chief Executive Officer Nabors Industries Ltd. The company is among the largest gas and oil drilling contractors in the world. But many of the people that knew Petrello as a youth are not surprised by his success. Growing up Petrello was a math whiz. Although he came from a working class family and attended public school in Newark, New Jersey, he earned a scholarship to Yale where he earned both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Mathematics. Anthony Petrello then attended Harvard Law School and got his Juris Doctor.
In 1979 Petrello was hired by the New York law firm Baker & McKenzie. His high-quality work and attention to detail led the firm to promote him to managing partner in 1986. He remained with the firm until 1991. At that time he was offered a position with Nabors Industries Ltd. They had been a client of the law firm and were familiar with Petrello’s work well before hiring him as president and CEO. He then served as Nabors Industries Ltd.’s deputy chairman from 2003 until 2012. In 2011 he also became Stewart & Stevenson, LLC’s director and a member of their executive committee.
But Tony Petrello is more than just a well-paid CEO. He is a husband and father as well. Petrello married soap-opera actress and producer Cynthia Carrafa, his college girlfriend, and started a family. The couple have a daughter, Carena, that was born prematurely and has cerebral palsy. That lead to Petrello becoming involved in philanthropy. He donated $7 million in seed money to help Texas Children’s Hospital build a neurological research center. He also became director of the board of Texas Children’s Hospital.
As a college student Petrello was a protégé of world-renowned mathematician Prof. Serge Lang. Many people were surprised when instead of becoming a brilliant academic he entered law school and then a career in business. To Petrello it was good fortune not intelligence that has led him to become the head of the largest land-based gas and oil drilling contractor.