As the Wall Street Journal once noted, it’s hard to spend a day in Mexico without putting money in Carlos Slim’s pocket. The 77-year-old business mogul controls hundreds of companies in the country and beyond, ranging from telecommunications firms and banks to airlines and retail outlets. Altogether, Slim’s conglomerate, Grupo Carso, is responsible for roughly 40% of the listings on the Mexican Stock Exchange and 70% of cellular traffic nationwide. The man at the helm is a multibillionaire — and from 2010 to 2013 was the richest person in the world.
Born in Mexico City in 1940 to a father of Lebanese descent who made a small fortune in retail and real estate, Slim quickly began amassing his own wealth as a stock trader and brokerage owner. Poring over balance sheets and financial reports, he was a whiz with numbers — his employees and colleagues call him El Ingeniero after the civil engineering degree he earned at university — and he pursued his business ambitions with hard-nosed drive.
His biggest moves came during times of upheaval; as he has said, “All times are good if you work in the right way.” In the 1980s and ’90s, he used Mexico’s currency devaluation and the privatization of the country’s telecom industry to begin building an empire: buying major assets and investing in their growth, including the Mexican arm of Sears Roebuck.
As folks like to joke in his home country, once there was nothing left for him to procure in Mexico, he looked north of the border. Slim has purchased stakes in major U.S. companies, including Saks Fifth Avenue, Office Depot and OfficeMax (now the same company), Borders, Barnes & Noble and the New York Times.
The so-called Warren Buffett of Mexico (like Buffett, Slim has lived in the same fairly modest home for decades, albeit one filled with priceless art) is also a real estate tycoon. His holding company, Inmobiliaria Carso, owns nearly two dozen shopping centers and retail stores throughout the country. In the States, Slim has reportedly purchased office towers and mansions in New York City, prime real estate in Beverly Hills and the historic Marquette Building in Downtown Detroit.
Lately, the billionaire has dropped a few pegs on the world’s richest list, thanks to the weakening peso and the Mexican government’s attempts to put a curb on the mogul’s monopolistic tendencies. — Joel Warner
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