Making of a Tycoon: The ‘World’s Richest’ Man,


Carlos Slim Helú

Carlos Slim Helú was born on January 28, 1940 in Mexico City, where he also received his first business lessons in early childhood. His father, Don Julián, gave each of his children a savings book with a weekly allowance for them to learn to manage their income and expenses. Young Carlos and his five siblings would review this book with their father, analysing expenses, purchases and activities. This groundwork equipped Don Julián’s children with the ability to manage their finances and eventually develop their own wealth. Investment and savings became a part of Carlos’s life, with the lessons learnt soon put into practice as he opened his first checking account and bought shares of Banco Nacional de México at the young age of 12.

Carlos studied Civil Engineering at the National Autonomous University of Mexico School of Engineering, where he also taught Algebra and Linear Programming while studying for his degree. In 1965, he began to build the foundations of Grupo Carso. In January 1966, Inmobiliaria Carso was incorporated, three months before he married Soumaya Domit Gemayel. The name Carso is a combination of the first three letters of Carlos’s own name and the first two letters of the name Soumaya.

Wealth Creation and Wealth Accumulation

Since the 1980s, Carlos has been a noted businessman in various industrial, real estate and commercial fields. His Grupo Carso decided to invest heavily and actively in 1982, a critical time in the history of Mexico with its debt crisis, banking system nationalisation and near-paralysed country finances lurking within the country. Many diverse investments and acquisitions were made during this period, one of which was Cigatam, which turned out to be the first and most vital because of its cash flow, providing Carlos and his group with sufficient liquidity to capitalise on available opportunities and to increase its acquisitions of big companies, including Hulera el Centenario, Bimex, Hoteles Calinda (today, OSTAR Grupo Hotelero) and Reynolds Aluminio.

By 1985, Grupo Carso had managed to acquire control of Artes Gráficas Unidas, Fábricas de Papel Loreto y Peña Pobre, and also a majority stake in Sanborns and its affiliate, Dennys. In 1986, Minera Frisco and Empresas Nacobre were acquired, as well as their affiliates. Control of the Euzkadi tyre company, the market leader at the time, was also acquired, as was a majority stake in General Tire some years later.

In 1990, the group acquired Telmex in partnership with SBC and France Telecom. Over the course of 21 years, Telmex developed a world-class technological platform that optimised its processes and strengthened its corporate culture. Telmex has invested the equivalent of US$27.692 billion in Mexico’s telecommunications infrastructure and, combined with operations in Latin America, the figure has risen to more than US$33 million.

Remembering the lessons of thrift learned from his father, Carlos and his family lived modestly. Earnings from his businesses were reinvested in expansion and more acquisitions. Over the next two decades, Carlos astutely acquired companies he believed were undervalued and skilfully overhauled their management. He diversified methodically: investing in real estate, then a construction equipment company, and mining interests. The portfolio of Carlos’s companies grew to include a printer, a tobacco company and retail stores.

Carlos has already vacated most of the boards of his companies and is currently serving as the Chairman of the Board of Directors of Impulsora del Desarrollo y el Empleo en América Latina, S.A. de C.V. (IDEAL); Chairman of Fundación Telmex, A.C.; Chairman of Fundación Carlos Slim Helú, A.C.; Chairman of the Executive Committee of Consejo Consultivo de Restauración del Centro Histórico; and Chairman of Fundación del Centro Histórico, A.C.

Along with a passion for history, art and nature, Carlos is also a great fan of baseball and has written several articles about the sport. He has six children with his deceased wife: Carlos, Marco Antonio, Patrick, Soumaya, Vanessa and Johanna.

Interesting Facts

1. He is the first ‘World’s Richest’ man from a developing country.

The year 2009 was good for the super-rich in developing nations. Brazil and Russia each saw their billionaire count doubled, while China’s new total ranked second only to the United States. Carlos, as the owner of more than 220 companies in telecommunications, banking, railways, restaurants, and many other businesses, saw his fortune increase by US$18.5 billion last year.


2. He is known as ‘Mr. Monopoly’ in Mexico.

You can barely make a call without putting money into Carlos’s pockets – his phone company Telmex controls 80 percent of the landlines, while its subsidiary América Móbil handles 70 percent of the cell service in Mexico.


3. He bailed out The New York Times.

In addition to owning 6.9 percent of The New York Times Company, Carlos loaned the struggling publisher US$250 million, essentially saving it from descending into financial ruins.


4. He’s famously frugal.

Carlos has practised legendary financial self-control since young. He still lives in the same modest six-bedroom home where he has resided for the past three decades. Despite the prevalence of kidnappings in Mexico, Carlos still drives himself to work.