Published: Thursday, March 11, 2010
The latest survey published by Fortune has named Carlos Slim, Mexico’s foremost business mogul, as the world’s richest man, ‘dethroning’ Bill Gates. Carlos Slim’s fortune is now valued at some $53.5 billion, whereas Bill Gates is left with a mere $53 billion.
Depending upon who you speak with here in Mexico, Carlos Slim is cast either a master entrepreneur who has modernized some of Mexico’s key industries—in particular, communications—or he is a ruthless monopolist, stamping out competitors and keeping tight grips on markets that should be more competitive.
Julian Slim Haddad, Mr Slim’s father, arrived in Mexico from Lebanon as a teenager at the turn of the twentieth century, and later opened a store selling dry goods as well as investing in real estate in the center of Mexico City. Carlos Slim was born in 1940, and studied engineering at Mexico’s UNAM. He is a gifted mathematician.
Carlos Slim’s most notable business transaction came to pass when Mexico’s government privatized Telmex, the national telecommunications company. By securing lines of finance, he was able to bid for—and ultimately take control of—the country’s entire telecommunications infrastructure. Telmex created a ‘cash-cow’ for Mr Slim that provided copious liquidity for him to diversify into other fields, including mobile telecoms when new technologies emerged. It was this element of his empire that has contributed strongly to his rise to the top of the wealth league, as measured by market capital on the world’s stock exchanges.
In January, Mr Slim announced that he planned to consolidate all of his diverse telecoms holdings under America Movil. The move is a clear indication that Mr Slim wants all his telecom assets gathered back into one bag.
Today, it is virtually impossible to visit or live in Mexico without putting money into the coffers of one of Mr Slim’s companies—whether you’re making a phone call or surfing the net, shopping, dining out, taking refreshment, driving your car, buying a gift or building a house—his commercial influence extends deeply across a diverse range of activities; his holding company manages over 200 different firms.
Although the news about his ascent to ‘first place’ on the Forbes list has made big play about the market value of these two men, the difference between first and second place (US$500 million) is nearly irrelevant because the sums involved are so huge and are subject to the value of the men’s share-holdings on stock markets which are shifting constantly.