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Carlos Slim of Mexico is now the world’s richest man

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Carlos Slim Helu

Carlos Slim Helu

A Mexican businessman by the name of Carlos Slim is now the richest person in the world, according to Forbes magazine.  Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, of the U.S., have to settle for second and third place.

Carlos Slim is worth a staggering $53.5 billion.

With the name of Carlos Slim, you might think he was a south-of-the-border cowboy who rolls his own cigarettes – nothing could be further from the truth.

His full name is Carlos Slim Helu.  Mexicans respectfully add their mother’s name onto their own, hence the “Helu.”

Slim was born on January 28th 1940, in Mexico City, one of six children – Carlos was number five and the youngest boy.

Carlos Slim’s father, Julian (who changed his last name from Salim to Slim), was a Lebanese immigrant living in Mexico City and running a small store.  His mother, Linda Helu, came from a distinguished family, also of Lebanese origin, owners of a magazine.

Slim started young.  On the school playground, he profited by trading baseball cards.  At 11 he had already bought his first government savings bonds.  At 15 he had invested in Banco Nacional de México shares.

In Mexico’s financial crisis of 1982, Slim bought out dozens of companies at rock-bottom prices.  Slim became a major player and he was only getting bigger.

In 1990 Slim snapped up Telmex, the former state telephone firm – and he never looked back.  Slim now owns controlling interests in at least hundreds of companies.  By some estimates his firm accounts for a third of Mexico’s leading stock market index and some 7% of its annual economic output.  In addition, Slim has interests outside of Mexico, including a major position in the New York Times – which he may just take over. Slim also owns an 18 percent stake in U.S. retailer, Saks.

In spite of his vast fortune, Slim lives in the same house he purchased with his wife, Soumaya, 40 years ago. He has no yacht, and no homes outside of Mexico (hotels are cheaper, he says).  According to a friend, on a vacation to Italy, Slim haggled for two hours to get ten dollars off the price of a necktie.

Carlos Slim’s only expensive passion is art. Today, his art collection includes 66,000 pieces, from 15th century European masters to the second-largest private collection of sculptures by Auguste Rodin outside of France.

Soumaya Museum

Soumaya Museum

When his wife died 1999, he built a  183,000 square-foot art museum in Mexico City and named it after her – the Soumaya Museum. The museum is part of a 12-acre urban development that will include two 22-story office towers and the corporate headquarters for Slim’s business conglomerate, Grupo Carso. There will also be a shopping mall, two upscale apartment towers, and an underground theater.

The entire complex has won praise in international design competitions. It was designed by well-regarded Mexican architect Fernando Romero, 38, who is married to Slim’s daughter, also named Soumaya,

Like most Mexicans, Slim is a family man and has six children.  Three of his sons now help with the family business. One son, Patrick Slim, is chairman of America Movil, Latin America’s largest mobile-phone company with nearly 200 million clients; another, Carlos Slim Domit, runs Grupo Carso; and a third, Marco Antonio Slim, heads the banking company Inbursa. Two of Slim’s daughters are married to telecom executives within their father’s corporate empire.

With all this activity, Slim has found time to donate $10 billion since 2006 through his two foundations.

Carlos Slim Helu has become the pride of Mexico.

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