Carlos Slim Helú, one of the wealthiest people in the world, was born on January 28, 1940, in Mexico City to a family of Lebanese Christian immigrants. He became a billionaire after the economic crash of 1982 when he purchased investments at low prices that would later be extremely valuable. In 2000, he founded the Foundation for the Historic Centre of Mexico City to restore and save significant buildings.
From 2010 to 2014, Carlos Slim Helu was the wealthiest man in the world, and most people did not even know who he was. “Slim,” as he is commonly known, is often called “the Monopolist,” and many people in Mexico refer to their country as Slimlandia, as it is difficult to spend money in a day without adding revenue to one of the over 200 companies associated with him. He appears on the Forbes’ billionaires list, as of April 2016, at fourth-richest in the world with $58.3 billion in wealth.
Slim was wealthy by the time he orchestrated the purchase of a 20% stake in Telmex (Telefonos de Mexico), the state-owned telephone company that was privatized in the 1990s by his own conglomerate Grupo Carso SAB . America Movil, a Grupo Carso company completely owned by Slim, eventually took over and privatized Telmex. The two companies at their peak accounted for 70% and 80%, respectively, of all land and cellphone communications in the country. With anti-monopolist pressures mounting, rumors state that the Helu family plans to divest itself of the controlling interest of the two companies for a possible $8 billion payout.
Slim founded Grupo Carso, a conglomerate holding company, early in his career from proceeds gained by working 14-hour days as a stockbroker in Mexico. This company still forms Slim’s main holdings, including three major revenue divisions: industrial, retail, and infrastructure and construction. The conglomerate operates a number of subsidiary companies that include Sanborns retail chain; Sears’ Mexican subsidiary; Cigatam, the second-largest cigarette maker in the country; and many more.
Not an area that Slim focused on in his early years, real estate has become a major part of his portfolio in the last two decades. Part of this was a natural undertaking as part of the expanding conglomerate, such as the 20 shopping centers throughout Mexico, 10 of those in Mexico City. However in 2006, Slim purchased the Duke Semans mansion for $44 million, considered one of the last great private residences on Fifth Avenue in New York City. In 2015, it was put up for sale for $88 million in his traditional strategy of buying items in a depressed market and reaping the benefits in up markets by selling them.
Slim also purchased two commercial buildings in the United States in 2015, including the PepsiCo Inc. Americas Beverages’ headquarters just north of New York City and the Marquette Building in Detroit. Grupo Carso’s main complex headquarters in Mexico City, named Plaza Carso, includes the Museo Soumaya, Museo Jumex, the Plaza Carso Shopping center, three residential towers and three commercial office buildings completed at an estimated cost of $1.4 billion.
A discussion on Slim’s portfolio holdings is not complete without mentioning his stake in the New York Times Company. American bastion of free speech. In 2009, he loaned $250 million to the ailing newspaper at 14% interest with the rights for warrants to exercise further buying of shares. He exercised these in 2015, upping his stake to 16.8%, making him the largest single shareholder.
His late wife was an avid art collector, and Slim built the Museo Soumaya in her honor. It houses almost 70,000 works of art, including the largest collection of Rodin art outside of France as well as a host of masterpieces, including Matisse, Van Gogh, Monet and Dali, just to name a few.
Slim’s portfolio is one of the largest on the planet. It reaches far and wide geographically and into almost every major industry, even though the bulk of it is tied to the $80 billion market capitalization of Telmex and America Movil and the $12 billion market capitalization of Groupo Carso.
Interseting Facts About Mr. Slim
- He began investing at a rather young age.
Carlos Slim and his siblings began learning about business as children from their enterprising father. When he was only 12 years old, Slim bought shares in a Mexican bank. Clearly, the phrase “it’s never too early” was an important family philosophy.
- He loves baseball.
Slim has a passion for history, nature and art (he is considered the world’s foremost collector of Rodin statues), but his greatest love is baseball. Slim has written several articles about the sport and is said to have an encyclopedic knowledge of the game. He’s also been known to attend Major League Baseball games to root for the league’s richest team: the Yankees.
- He has influence in the United States.
In 2008, Slim made headlines when he bought a 6.4% stake in the New York Times Company and recently bought more, upping his stake to 7.5%. However, he also loaned the New York Times $250 million in 2009 when they were in difficult financial times. This wasn’t the first time he invested in the United States. Before their liquidation in late 2007, Slim indirectly controlled the now defunct computer retailer CompUSA. Additionally, Slim bought a 1% stake in Citigroup in 2008 and has a 16% stake in Saks Fifth Avenue.
- His philanthropy has its limits.
Slim has been criticized for accumulating so much wealth in a nation where about half the people are living in poverty. He did join President Bill Clinton and Canadian mining figure Frank Giustra to launch an anti-poverty campaign in Latin America. But he told USA Today(link is external) education and jobs can fight poverty better than charity. Still, he was on Forbes’ list of the World’s Biggest Givers in May 2011 for donating $4 billion to his anti-poverty foundation.
- He’s frugal.
What is it with billionaires being so frugal? Slim maintains a relatively low-key existence. He has lived in the same six-bedroom house for the past 30 years and even drives himself to work. Rather than living a luxurious life around the world, he likes to enjoy his home country. He wears clothes from his own modest store, doesn’t travel very much and doesn’t own a single home outside of Mexico.