Carlos Slim Helu, Mexico’s wealthiest man and one of the richest self-made billionaires in the world, flies under the radar more than you might expect, considering he owns more than 200 companies in Mexico, which is also known as “Slimlandia.”
With a net worth of at least $35.4 billion, Slim’s influence is far-reaching in Mexico and abroad.
So what drives the man who built a giant business empire across one of the poorest countries in the Americas? Read on to find out.
Slim’s parents were Lebanese immigrants who moved to Mexico before his birth. They endowed their son with strong values, and his father taught him to read financial documents and invest at a young age. Slim has carefully preserved his childhood home and keeps a photograph of his father on his desk.
After moving to Mexico, Slim’s father was successful in both retail and real estate; upon his death in 1953, his son, Carlos, inherited his businesses.
Slim also holds a deep love for his country. He said, “Mexico is so rich in culture and history, and I have always enjoyed that.”
Source: Telegraph UK
Slim went to college at Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico, or UNAM, Mexico’s National Autonomous University. He studied civil engineering and graduated in 1961. Soon after, he founded his first company, Inversora Bursatil, an insurance company.
Though Slim is known best as founder and chairman of the conglomerate Grupo Carso and chairman of telecommunications giant Telmex, his riches also result from many other business ventures. Slim spent much of the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s building a diverse portfolio that now dominates the Mexican economy.
Slim has a foolproof strategy for making money: He acquires struggling companies and transforms them into multibillion-dollar holdings before selling his stake at a profit. In particular, he took advantage of the Mexican debt crisis in 1982 in order to purchase many deflated companies.
Slim first entered the international spotlight in 1991 when he appeared on Forbes’ billionaires list with a net worth of $1.7 billion. The previous year, he saw his first big success when Grupo Carso went public and led the privatization of state phone company Telmex.
In 2010, Slim surpassed Bill Gates as the richest man in the world; it was the first time in 16 years that the world’s richest man wasn’t from the US. Though Bill Gates is currently the richest man in the world once again, Slim is the wealthiest in Mexico with a net worth of at least $35.4 billion.
Slim’s presence is all over Mexico. As The Telegraph reports, “The reach of his dominion is so large that the average Mexican will wake up on sheets bought from a Slim-owned store; buy their morning bread from a Slim-owned bakery; and drive to work in a Slim-insured car …”
Slim’s critics accuse him of being a monopolist whose practices drive prices and unemployment through the roof. The billionaire doesn’t let criticism bother him: “When you live for others’ opinions, you are dead. I don’t want to live thinking about how I’ll be remembered.”
Though he is inordinately wealthy, Slim does not believe in conspicuous consumption— he doesn’t own any yachts or planes. Most of his money goes towards further investments in business or philanthropy, though he does have a set of hand-carved and blown Baccarat wine glasses that were owned by the previous president of Mexico.
Tim Padgett, who interviewed Slim for Time magazine, said, “Just by looking at him, you would never know he is a billionaire.” Slim has lived in the same six-bedroom house for 40 years. He indulges in only two big luxuries: Cuban cigars and art collecting.
Slim is a unique billionaire in that he has no homes outside of Mexico; however, he has numerous real-estate holdings, including a mansion on Fifth Avenue that he purchased in 2010 as an investment, not a residence. It is now on the market for $80 million, which would make it the most expensive townhouse ever sold in New York City and almost double Slim’s initial investment.
Slim was married to his wife, Soumaya, for 32 years, but she passed away in 1999 due to renal failure. The couple had six children who will inherit Slim’s empire. Slim actually named his first company after her — the word “Carso” in Grupo Carso is an amalgamation of the names Carlos and Soumaya.
Since his wife’s death, rumors have circulated of Slim’s subsequent romances, most famously with Queen Noor al-Hussein of Jordan. Both Soumaya and Queen Noor’s husband, King Hussein, passed away within one day of one another in 1999. Ten years later, newspaper outlets reported that Slim and the Queen of Jordan had formed a close relationship that included jet-setting around the globe and dining in secret at friends’ houses.
Since 2004, Slim has stepped down from the boards of his three largest companies in order to focus on family, philanthropy, and his own health. Every Monday he has dinner with his children and their spouses to discuss business, and every Wednesday he has lunch with his grandchildren.