“It’s important to give a better country to your children, but it is more important to give better children to your country.”
Carlos Slim Helú (Spanish pronunciation: [ˈkaɾlos esˈlim eˈlu]; born January 28, 1940) is a Mexican business magnate, investor, and philanthropist. From 2010 to 2013, Slim was ranked as the richest person in the world. Known as the “Warren Buffett of Mexico”, Slim oversees a vast business empire that is influential in every sector of the Mexican economy and accounts for 40% of the listings on the Mexican Stock Exchange. He derived his fortune from his extensive holdings in a considerable number of Mexican companies through his conglomerate, Grupo Carso. The conglomerate comprises a diverse portfolio of businesses from a wide array of industries that include telecommunications, education, health care, industrial manufacturing, food and beverages, real estate, airlines, media, mining, oil, hospitality, entertainment, technology, retail, sports and financial services. Currently, Slim is the chairman and chief executive of telecommunications companies Telmex and América Móvil.
América Móvil, which was Latin America’s largest mobile-phone carrier in 2010, accounted for around $49 billion of Slim’s wealth by the end of that year. As of August 2015 he is #4 on Forbes list of billionaires, and his net worth is estimated at $65.6 billion. His net worth is nearly equivalent to about 6 percent of Mexico’s gross domestic product.
Slim was born on January 28, 1940, in Mexico City, Mexico, to Maronite Catholic parents, Julián Slim Haddad and Linda Helú Atta, both of Lebanese descent. His father, born Khalil Salim Haddad Aglamaz, emigrated to Mexico from Lebanon (then part of the Ottoman Empire) at the age of 14 in 1902 and changed his name to Julián Slim Haddad. It was not uncommon for Lebanese children to be sent abroad before they reached the age of 15 to avoid being conscripted into the Ottoman Army; four of Haddad’s older brothers were already living in Mexico at the time of his arrival. In August 1926, Julián Slim and Linda Helú married. They had six children: Nour, Alma, Julián, José, Carlos and Linda, with Carlos being the fifth of six children. Julián senior died in 1953, when Slim was just 13 years old. Carlos Slim’s mother, Linda Helú Atta, was born in Parral, Chihuahua, of Lebanese parents who had immigrated to Mexico in the late 19th century. Upon immigrating to Mexico, her parents had founded one of the first Arabic-language magazines for the Lebanese-Mexican community, using a printing press they had brought with them.
In 1911 Julián established a dry goods store, La Estrella de Oriente (The Star of the Orient). La Estrella de Oriente was an important dry goods store located on Venustiano Carranza where it had merchandise worth more than $100,000 by January 21, 1921, only ten years after the business was founded. By 1921, he had begun investing in real estate in the flourishing commercial district of Mexico City where Julian would acquire prime real estate at fire sale prices and in Zocalo District during the 1910–17 Mexican Revolution. By 1922, Julián’s net worth reached $1,012,258 pesos and was diversified within various assets including real estate, businesses and various stocks. These business ventures became the source of considerable wealth for himself and his family. As a result of financial prosperity of these ventures, his father soon became a prominent and wealthy businessman, where he was able to make investments during bad economic cycles due to Mexico’s frequent economic downturns. Julian was known for his business savvy, strong work ethic, and commitment to traditional Lebanese moral values. Having a deep understanding of business that was considered ahead of his time. One of Julian’s many pioneering business concepts was an efficient business as one that sold large volumes at smaller margins, and with payment facilities, factors that are prevalent in many large discount stores today.
Slim always knew he wanted to be a businessman and began to develop his business and investment acumen at a young age. He received business lessons from his early childhood where his father Julian, often taught the young Carlos the value of financial literacy, management and accountability, teaching him how to read financial statements as well as the importance of keeping accurate financial records, a practice that Slim carries on to this day.
Slim’s first investment began at the age of 11, when he invested in a government savings bond that taught him about the concept of compound interest. He eventually saved every financial and business transaction he made into his personal ledger book to which he keeps to this day. At the age of 12, he made his first stock purchase, by purchasing shares in a Mexican bank. By the age of 15, Slim had become a shareholder in Mexico’s largest bank. At the age of 17, he earned 200 pesos a week working for his father’s company. He went on to study civil engineering at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, where he also concurrently taught algebra and linear programming, which meant that he was both a student and professor.
Though Slim was a civil engineering major because of his fascination for numbers, he also displayed an interest in economics. He took economics courses in Chile once he finished his engineering degree. Graduating as a civil engineering major, Slim has stated that his mathematical prowess and his background of linear programming was a key factor in helping him gain an edge in the business world, especially when reading financial statements.
After graduating from college in 1961, Slim began his career as a stock trader in Mexico, often working 14-hour days. In 1965, profits from Slim’s private investments reached $400,000 ($2,998,336 in 2015 dollars), allowing him to found the stock brokerage Inversora Bursátil. In addition, he also began laying the financial groundwork for Grupo Carso. In 1965 he also bought Jarritos del Sur. In 1966, worth $40 million ($299,833,650 in 2015 dollars), he founded Inmobiliaria Carso.
By 1972, Slim had established or acquired seven more businesses, including one which rented construction equipment. In 1976, he acquired a 60 percent share of Galas de México (a small printing company that manufactured cigarette-pack labels) for $1 million, and in 1980, he consolidated his business interests by forming Grupo Galas as the parent company of a conglomerate that had interests in industry, construction, mining, retail, food, and tobacco. In 1981, Slim acquired a majority stake in Cigarros la Tabacelera Mexicana (Cigatam), Mexico’s second largest producer and marketer of cigarettes.
Companies found within the construction, soft drink, printing, real estate, bottling and mining industries were the focus of Slim’s early burgeoning business career.He later expanded into numerous industries including auto parts, aluminium, airlines, chemicals, tobacco, manufacturing of cables and wires, paper and packaging, copper and mineral combustion, tires, cement, retail, hotels, beverage distributors, telecommunications and financial services where Slim’s Grupo Financiero Inbursa – which sells insurance and invests the savings, mutual funds and pension plans of millions of ordinary Mexicans. By 1972, he had established or acquired a further seven businesses in these categories, including one which rented construction equipment. In 1976, he branched out by acquiring a 60 percent share of Galas de México, a small printer of cigarette-pack labels for $1 million, and in 1980, he consolidated his business interests by forming Grupo Galas as theparent company of a conglomerate that had interests in industry, construction, mining, retail, food, and tobacco. In 1981, Slim acquired a majority stake in Cigarros la Tabacelera Mexicana (Cigatam), Mexico’s second largest producer and marketer of cigarettes, at a fire sale price.
In 1982, the Mexican economy contracted rapidly. As many banks were struggling and foreign investors were cutting back on investing and scurrying, Slim began investing heavily and bought many flagship companies at depressed valuations. Buying troubled assets at depressed prices to resell them later at an attractive price is a business strategy that Slim has executed throughout his career.
Having a keen investment eye for value, Slim adhered to his value investment practices with a long history of buying stakes in companies he sees as undervalued. Much of Slim’s business dealings involved a simple strategy, which is to buy a business and hang on to it for its cash flow or eventually sell thestake at a greater profit in future, thereby netting the capital gains as well as reinvesting the initial principal into a new business. In addition, his conglomerate structure allows Slim to purchase numerous stakes that it is made nearly recession proof if one sector of the economy doesn’t do well. Slim also doesn’t address the finer details of the business but instead focuses on business fundamentals where his strategy is buy an asset at an undervalued price for its underlying cash flow and eventually sell his stake for greater profit when the asset gains value, or simply hang to the business for its cash flow.
Between the mid 1960s to the early 1980s, Slim remembered the lessons of thrift he had learned from his father, and he and his growing family lived a modest life, while earnings from Slim’s many businesses were re-invested in expansion and more acquisitions. Carlos Slim astutely acquired companies with strong returns on capital he believed were undervalued and skillfully overhauled their management. He diversified methodically in numerous industry sectors across the Mexican economy, investing in real estate, then a construction equipment company, and mining companies. The portfolio of Slim companies grew to include a printing company, a tobacco company and retail stores.
During the Mexican economic downturn before its recovery in 1985, Slim invested heavily. He bought all or a large percentage of numerous Mexican businesses, including Empresas Frisco, a mining and chemicals company producing silver, gold, copper, lead, and zinc from extracted ores, and also chemical products such as hydrofluoric acid and molybdenum for only $50 million, Industrias Nacobre, a manufacturer of copper products, Reynolds Aluminio, Compania Hulera Euzkadi, Mexico’s largest tiremaker, Bimex hotels, and majority share of Sanborn Hermanos food retailer, gift shop and restaurant chain. Slim spent $13 million to buy insurance company Seguros de México in 1984, and later absorbed the company into the firm, Seguros Inbursa. The value of his stake in Seguros eventually became worth $1.5 billion by 2007, after four spinoffs. He also acquired a 40% and 50% interest in the Mexican arms of British American Tobacco and The Hershey Company, respectively as well as acquiring large blocks of Denny’s and Firestone Tires. He moved into financial services as well, buying Seguros de México and creating from it, along with other purchases such as Fianzas La Guardiana and Casa de Bolsa Inbursa, the Grupo Financiero Inbursa. Many of these acquisitions were financed by the revenues and cash flows from Cigatam, a tobacco business which he bought early in the economic downturn.
In 1988 Slim bought the Nacrobre group of companies, which trades in copper and aluminum products, along with a chemicals business, Química Fluor, and others.
Slim made a large fortune in the early 1990s when Mexico privatized its telecom industry and Grupo Carso acquired Telmex from the Mexican government. In 1990 the Grupo Carso was floated as a public company initially in Mexico and then worldwide. Grupo Carso also acquired majority ownership of Porcelanite, a tilemaking company in 1990. This investment was assigned to an associated company, but in 1995 Grupo Carso began growing its equity stake to 83 percent and subsequently made it a subsidiary.
Later in 1990 Slim acted in concert with France Télécom and Southwestern Bell Corporation in order to buy the landline telephone company Telmex from the Mexican government, when Mexico began privatizing its national industries. Slim was one of the initial investors of Telmex, the revenues of the company eventually formed the bulk of Slim’s wealth. By 2006, 90 percent of the telephone lines in Mexico were operated by Telmex, and his mobile telephone company, Telcel, which was created out of the Radiomóvil Dipsa company, operated almost 80 percent of all the country’s cellphones. By 2012, América Movil, Slim’s mobile telephone company, had taken over Telmex and made it into a privately held subsidiary.
In 1996 Grupo Carso was split into three companies: Carso Global Telecom, Grupo Carso, and Invercorporación. In the following year, Slim bought the Mexican arm of Sears Roebuck. In July 1997 Grupo Carso agreed in principle to sell Procter & Gamble de México, a subsidiary of The Procter & Gamble Co., a manufacturing plant in Apizaco and the company’s Lypps, Pampys, and other toilet-tissue brands for about $170 million but kept its tissue-products company Fábricas de Papel Loreto y Peña Pobre.
In 1999, Slim began expanding his business interests beyond Latin America. Though the bulk of his holdings still remained in Mexico, he began setting his sights towards the United States for overseas investments. Slim soon began becoming a prominent figure within the American business scene by 2003 when he began purchasing large stakes in a number of major US retailers such as Barnes & Noble, OfficeMax, Office Depot, Circuit City, Borders, and CompUSA. Much of reason behind Slim’s overseas expansion was due to a running joke in the Mexican business scene where “there was nothing left to acquire in Mexico”. He eyed towards investing the United States where he set up Telmex USA and also acquired a stake in Tracfone, a US cellular telephone company. At the same time, he established Carso Infraestructura y Construcción, S. A. (CICSA) as a construction and engineering company within Grupo Carso. During the same year, Slim had heart surgery and subsequently passed on much of the day-to-day involvement in the businesses to his children and their spouses.
By 2003 Slim had purchased large stakes in U.S. retailers Barnes & Noble, OfficeMax, Office Depot, Circuit City, Borders, and CompUSA. He setup Telmex USA and acquired a stake in Tracfone, a U.S. cellular telephone company. He also established Carso Infraestructura y Construcción, S. A. (CICSA) as a construction and engineering company within Grupo Carso. During the same year, Slim had heart surgery and subsequently passed on much of the day-to-day involvement in the businesses to his children and their spouses.
América Telecom, the holding company for América Móvil, was incorporated in 2000. It took stakes in cellular telephone companies outside of Mexico, including the Brazilian ATL and Telecom Americas concerns, Techtel in Argentina, and others in Guatemala and Ecuador. In subsequent years, there were investment in Latin America, with companies in Colombia, Nicaragua, Peru, Chile, Honduras, and El Salvador, as well as a venture with Microsoft.
In 2005 Slim invested in Volaris, a Mexican airline and established Impulsora del Desarrollo y el Empleo en America Latina SAB de CV (using the acronym “IDEAL”—roughly translated as “Promoter of Development and Employment in Latin America”), a Mexican construction and civil engineering company primarily engaged in not-for-profit infrastructure development. Since 2006, IDEAL won three infrastructure contracts yet it faces stiff competition from a number of other Mexican and Spanish construction companies. The number of contracts is fewer than its biggest local competitor, Empresas ICA. During the same period, Empresas obtained 18 Mexican projects valued at $1.09 billion, including airports, toll roads, hospitals and oil platforms. Some of the projects IDEAL has been awarded include the Nezahualcoyotl development, which is a landfill that was acquired for 150 million by Slim to develop a shopping mall, two schools, a hospital and a park on the site. Other contracts IDEAL has been awarded include a water-treatment plant contract, and a real estate partnership with the Mexican hospital chain Star Médica. IDEAL is also betting on one of the poorest landfills surrounding Mexico City. Slim has also planned to purchase several toll roads offered by the Mexican government that it took over from private companies following the December 1994 currency devaluation. Though speculation that the landfill will take about 12 years to yield a return, the development of a such poor area is revealed to promise handsome business profits over the years as Grupo Elektra, Mexico’s largest consumer electronics retailer, sells 2,000 flat screen televisions a year at its store in the area, making it the third-best-selling outlet. Included in the development, IDEAL will also collect rent from a university, a hospital and a school that will be built around a mall, will have 178 stores, including Inditex’s Zara fashion chain and Slim’s Grupo Sanborns and the Mexican unit of Sears Holdings. A park in Nezahualcoyotl, the first of its kind will also be constructed. The park will comprise 34 soccer fields, 12 tennis, basketball and volleyball courts, a baseball field and a gym with a swimming pool.
In 2007, after having amassed a 50.1% stake in the Cigatam tobacco company, Slim reduced his holdings by selling a large portion of his equity to Philip Morris for $1.1 billion, while in the same year also selling his entire interest in a tile company, Porcelanite, for $800 million. He licensed the Saks name and opened the Mexican arm of Saks Fifth Avenue in Santa Fe, Mexico. During the same year, the estimated value of all of Slim’s companies was at 150 billion. On December 8, 2007, Grupo Carso announced that the remaining 103 CompUSA stores would be either liquidated or sold, bringing an end to the struggling company, although the IT tech part of CompUSA continued under the name Telvista with U.S. locations in Dallas, Texas (U.S. Corporate Office) and Danville, Virginia. Telvista has five centers in Mexico (three in Tijuana, one center in Mexicali, and one in México City). After 28 years, Slim became the Honorary Lifetime Chairman of the business.
In 2008 Slim took a 6.4% stake valued at $27 million in the troubled New York Times Company, as the global recession and declining advertising revenues took a particularly heavy toll on print-based “old media” companies across the United States. Slim increased his stake to 8% by 2012. Slim’s stake in the Times increased again to 16.8% on January 20, 2015 when he exercised stock options to purchase 15.9 million shares, making him the largest shareholder in the company.
In 2012 Slim sold the broadcast rights for the Leon games to Telemundo in the United States, and the cable channel Fox Sports in Mexico and the rest of Latin America and to the website mediotiempo.com. The games are also broadcast on the Internet through UNO TV, offered by Telmex. Slim has been involved with broadcasting sports outside Mexico to larger markets such as the United States. In March 2012, America Movil acquired the broadcast rights for the Olympic Games in Sochi 2014 and the Brazil 2016 for Latin America.
In March 2012 Slim, along with American television host Larry King, established Ora TV, an on-demand digital television network that produces and distributes television shows including Larry King Now, Politicking with Larry King, Recessionista, and Jesse Ventura Uncensored.
In September 2012 Slim bought 30% stakes in Pachuca and León, two Mexican soccer teams through his telecommunications company America Movil. In December 2012, he bought all the shares of the second division team Estudiantes Tecos. Slim has also completed business deals for the television rights to games of the Leon soccer team. His company America Movil purchase 30 percent of the team along with transmission rights as Slim doesn’t have the rights to transmit content by broadcast television or cable TV as well as putting him in competition with Televisa and TV Azteca, two television companies with rights to the rest of Mexican soccer’s first division.
In 2013 Slim’s company, Grupo Carso opened Mexico City’s Telcel Theater, which operates in conjunction with his entertainment company, Grupo CIE (Corporación Interamericana de Entretenimiento), Mexico’s equivalent of Live Nation.
In April 2013 Slim entered the business of managing Mexican prisons to expand the investments of his construction-financing company. Ideal acquired stakes in two federal prisons from Desarrolladora Homex SAB, a Mexican homebuilder where Slim’s companies will receive 4 billion pesos ($326 million) within the agreement. The company ran his son, Marco Antonio Slim would add the prisons to its portfolio of infrastructure assets among which include toll roads, hydroelectric dams, and water-treatment plants.
In July 2013 Slim’s company America Movill invested $40 million in Shazam, a British commercial mobile phone-based music identification service for an undisclosed share. America Movil partnered with the company to aid its growth into advertising and television and help the audio recognition service expand in Latin America.
In November 2013 Slim invested $60 million in Israeli startup Mobli, a company that deals with connections between people and communities corralled according to different interests.
In December 2013 Slim’s private equity fund, Sinca Inbursa, sold its stake in Mexican pharmaceutical company Landsteiner Scientific. Slim acquired a 27.51 stake in the company in June 2008 and represented 6.6 percent of Sinca’s investment portfolio. The private equity fund’s investments are mainly in transportation and infrastructure and the fund had total market cap of 5.152 billion pesos at the end of 2012.
Slim has also set his sights within the energy industry as well. In 2011, Slim began buying a 70 percent stake in n Geoprocesados SA’s Tabasco Oil Co., gaining access to the Colombian oil market as the country seeks to boost crude and natural-gas output. Slim began seeking to boost his oil investments in Colombia because of the country’s open policies on exploration as well as furthering its commitment to double output by 2020. Investors have also been drawn to Colombia because of improved security as well as a clear government regulatory framework for oil drilling. In 2013, Mexico’s national oil and gas company Pemex hired an offshore drilling rig from the Carso Group. The agreement, Pemex will operate the rig on a seven-year contract and will pay $415 million. The rig is owned by Operadora Cicsa, a subsidiary of Carso Group. The relationship between Pemex and Slim rans back as early as in 2006, where NOC hired CICSA for the drilling and completion of over 60 wells in the southern region – covering the Cinco Presidentes, Macuspana-Muspac, Samaria-Luna and Bellota-Jujo assets – and for the expansion of a petrochemical plant in Veracruz. Carso’s infrastructure and construction subsidiary has been awarded with several oil well development contracts in Pemex’s main assets – including Chicontepec – as well as tenders for the construction of natural gas pipelines and marine platforms. With the 2008 Pemex Law reform, the creation of integrated service contracts and the perspectives for a future energy reform, Slim has began seizing business and investment opportunities in Mexico’s oil and gas industry. CICSA’s pipe manufacturing division Swepomex into a marine platform provider. CICSA has also acquired majority shares in Oklahoma contractor Bronco Drilling, along with minority participations in Houston drilling company Allis Chalmers Energy. Slim controls a 15 percent stake in Bronco, with warrants that could boost the stake to 20 percent. He also has a 2.9 percent stake in Allis-Chalmers. 15% of the country’s main gas operator, Gas Natural Mexico now belong to Sinca Inbursa, a private equity fund controlled by Slim. Slim Helú has also maintained an important business presence in Spanish oil company Repsol and its Argentinian subsidiary YPF, Argentina’s largest oil company, where Slim has an 8.4 percent stake.
In 2013 Mexico’s national oil and gas company Pemex hired an offshore drilling rig from the Carso Group. The agreement, Pemex will operate the rig on a seven-year contract and will pay $415 million. The rig is owned by Operadora Cicsa, a subsidiary of Carso Group.
On April 23, 2014, Slim took control of Telekom Austria, Austria’s biggest phone carrier, which has telcos in countries such as Bulgaria, Croatia and Belarus, under a 10-year agreement, was Slim’s first successful business acquisition in Europe. In a syndicate holding structure the Austrian state holding company OIAG’s 28 percent are combined with Slim’s 27 percent ownership. America Movil will spend as much as $2 billion to buy out minority shareholders in a mandatory public offerand invest up to 1 billion euros ($1.38 billion) into the company, which it sees as “platform for expansion into central and eastern Europe”. Labor representatives boycotted attending the OIAG supervisory board meeting for 12 hours criticizing lack of explicit job guarantees.
In July 2014 Slim invested in WellAware, a Texas-based oil and gas software developer, this investment was also made with former Republican vice president Dick Cheney. External funding was provided by Activant Capital Group and Slim, along with participation from strategic investors and WellAware board members Ed Whitacre. When Mexico eventually prepared to open its oil and gas sectors to domestic and foreign private capital for the first time in 75 years, it has been widely speculated that Slim will play a major role toward contributing to Mexico’s new energy landscape. Slim’s investment in WellAware, whose software allows oil and gas companies to track wells and pipelines remotely and collates data for making forecasts, adds to a number of oil-related investments that he has been making in the past years in Mexico, Latin America and the United States.
In January 2015 Grupo Carso publicly launched Claro Musica, an online music service that is a Latin American equivalent of iTunes and Spotify. Slim and his son increased their presence in Mexico’s music industry, particularly in the retail music industry since 2013. Sanborn’s, the Mexican retail department store chain owned by Slim contains an extensive music section and 170 locations in Mexico as well as controlling a majority stake in Mixup, Mexico’s most successful retail music store that comprises a chain 117-store Mexican retailers along with an online iShop through a selling partnership with Apple. Mixup also generated more than $320 million in revenue in 2014.
In March 2015 Slim began to set his sights on Spain, purchasing Spanish real estate at rock-bottom prices within the ailing Spanish economy. Slim has also been buying up stakes in various troubled Spanish corporations while eyeing various investments across Europe. Slim’s investment company, Inmobiliaria Carso, announced it will buy a stake in the Spanish banking conglomerate Bankia, which couples with Slim’s other purchase of Realia, a Spanish real estate company, where Slim is the second largest shareholder holding a 25% equity stake, behind Fomento de Construcciones y Contratas, a construction company where Slim is also a minor shareholder.
On April 15, 2015, Slim formed his own oil company called Carso Oil & Gas. The company was established after shareholders of the subsidiaries of Slim’s business conglomerate, Grupo Carso, voted in February 2015 to merge Carso Infraestructura, Construccion y Perforacion and Condumex Perforaciones into Carso Oil & Gas. A report that was released by the new company listed its assets at 3.5 billion pesos (approximately $230 million), placed within 17.7 million shares. Upon formation of the company, Slim remained sanguine about the company and Mexico’s burgeoning energy sector where the state monopoly ceased to exist once held by state-owned oil company Pemex and opening the sector for private investors.
On July 25, 2015, Slim’s investment group Control Empresarial de Capitales invested in IMatchative, a technology startup that ranks the world’s hedge funds creating in-depth behavioral profiles and business analytics. The company creates proprietary behavioral profiles of the top hedge fund managers using everything from divorce records to political donations incorporated in their profiles and fund analysis. Limited partners pay US$30,000 per subscription while hedge fund managers pay half the price and also sign up for a free version of the products the company offers.
On September 8, 2015, one of Slim’s companies announced that Philosophy Jr. Studio, a fashion line for young women, will expand into a standalone retailer chain that will compete with elite fashion retailers across the globe. Although the style of the new fashion line and the number of yearly collections has not been made public, Philosophy Jr. Studio is expected to compete with a myriad of well-known multinational fast-fashion retailers such as H&M , Forever 21, Zara and C&A. The fashion line will be offered at individual brick and mortar boutiques at two shopping malls in Mexico City. With a $20 million seed investment, Slim’s plan is to have 100 standalone stores by 2017. The brand was established in 2011 and has been sold at Sears Mexico, a unit of Grupo Sanborns, the restaurant, retail, and pharmacy chain owned by Slim.