Michael Patterson, 39
Mike Patterson has never been wary of going first. In the Navy, he helped plan the military’s first drone-enabled strikes (back then the drones themselves couldn’t carry missiles). He left the Navy shortly before September 11, 2001, but returned to the military briefly to assist in retargeting the drones after the terrorist attacks. After shifting to finance-his first gig was in private equity at Goldman Sachs—Patterson co-founded in 2007 Highbridge Principal Strategies, an offshoot of the JPMorgan-owned multi-strategy hedge fund, where he launched one of the first funds focused on direct lending. His timing was perfect: within a year, the credit crunch hit and companies came knocking; now, with $7 billion in his funds—mostly made up of loans to distressed low-profile, mid-sized companies—Patterson has become a go-to guy for companies in trouble, or, as Patterson puts it, “need help with complicated problems.” (He won’t say which, but you have heard of some.) The loans are risky, but Patterson has never a default, and has produced an annual return of 13%, far better than most hedge funds in the same period. Along with his loan fund, Patterson is also responsible for co-heading Highbridge’s entire $19 billion debt investment division. Patterson is passionate about helping fellow veterans. When JPMorgan wanted to do more to assist vets two years ago, Patterson helped develop a hiring program for the bank.