Born in Mexico City in January 1940, Carlos Slim Helu has long been a businessman. He bought his first shares in a Mexican bank at the age of just 12 and now he’s easily Mexico’s wealthiest man. In fact, Slim (as he’s commonly known) was ranked as the world’s richest man from 2010 to 2013, but his ranking dropped down to number two after Bill Gates in 2014 according to Bloomberg.
Slim is estimated to have a fortune worth approximately $70 billion. The Latin American telecommunications company America Movil accounts for a big chunk of his wealth and for that he comes under a lot of criticism. He is accused of running a monopoly over the mobile market in Mexico and Latin America, and benefiting from extreme wealth while the average Mexican earns only $6,000 per year according to Inegi (a statistical organization in Mexico). Despite this, Slim is one of the world’s biggest givers according to Forbes, having put an estimated $4 billion into his foundation in 2011.
Slim has three sons and three daughters to his late wife, Souyama Domit, and he has not remarried since her passing due to kidney failure in 1999. He is a man that stays out of the spotlight as much as possible, despite having been catapulted to worldwide fame thanks to his billionaire status.
10. Nearly All Mexicans Have Bought Something From Him
Slim’s influence throughout Mexico is to the extent that nearly all people living in the country would have bought something from a company owned by him. Perhaps they’ll be driving a car that’s insured by him or talking on mobile phone that’s connected to his telecommunications company TelMex. They might be going for dinner at a restaurant he owns, or buying a packet of cigarettes from a company owned by him. They could even be going to sleep at night on Slim-owned bed linen. It’s no wonder there’s a running joke that he also owns every cactus in Mexico.
9. He Opened a Museum in His Wife’s Honor
As part of the philanthropic work he does through the Carlos Slim Foundation, Slim spent about $70 million building Museo Soumaya in Mexico City. Named after his late wife, and designed by his son in law, this museum contains over 66,000 pieces of artwork including masterpieces by the likes of Monet, Van Gogh and Da Vinci. The building itself is flashy, with about 16,000 hexagonal aluminium tiles covering it. Admission to the museum is free, and Slim has been quoted as saying that it was important for Mexicans to have access to European art collections without having to travel across the globe. Slim also noted that it was his wife who taught him about sculpture and paintings.
8. His Favorite Vacations Were All About Art
Slim is a busy guy who probably doesn’t have a lot of time to go vacationing. However, he has said that his favorite getaways of all time were the ones he took with his late wife, Souyama, in Europe. The pair visited many museums and galleries in Europe together, with their favorites being the British Museum (in London) and the National Gallery and Natural History Museum. As Slim told the Telegraph, his wife Souyama “was very sensitive to art…for our honeymoon we went to lots of galleries”. She was the one that convinced him to begin his extensive art collection which he is still adding to in 2014.
7. He Gave the New York Times a Loan
In 2009, Slim signed a $250 million lending agreement with the New York Times, from which he’s expected to double his money. At the time, he was quoted as saying that the New York Times was “one of the best newspapers and brands in the world”. He reportedly had no doubt that the investment was a worthy one and that the company would succeed in the transition from newspapers to news on the web. As reported by Bloomberg, a Times investor called Thomas Graham Kahn said the Times had “financial issues” when they entered the lending agreement but that now “they’ve gone from a position of having to pay high interest rates on their loans to where they’re net cash-positive”.
6. He is a Maronite Christian
This 74-year-old is a Maronite Christian, which is a global religion with about three million followers. He likely inherited his religious beliefs from his parents who were Lebanese – there are communities of Maronites in Lebanon. The church’s followers look to Saint Maron, who was a fifth-century monk living on a mountain in Syria. Most Mexicans are Christians like Slim, but it’s the Maronite part that sets him apart. It’s worth noting here also that although he doesn’t speak of religion often, he sent his children to Legion of Christ schools and also put money into establishing Legion of Christ universities in Latin America.
5. He Doesn’t Bother With Computers
Slim is reportedly a meticulous record-keeper, a trait which he says he inherited from his father, but that doesn’t mean he uses a computer! Slim says he uses notebooks instead. He prefers to keep all his notes and records handwritten with a pen and paper, as he has done his whole life. Ever since his early investments as a teenager, he has kept detailed records of each and every business transaction he’s made. More recently, he’s said that he doesn’t read anything on a computer screen, doesn’t send and receive emails and he says that all the information he needs to make a business decision should be presented on single sheet of paper.
4. He Lives a Modest Life
He may be filthy rich, but he’s far from extravagant and is known to sometimes wear a plastic wristwatch. Slim’s Mexico City home (pictured above with the green roof) has simple furnishings, six bedrooms, a modest pool and is a far cry from some of the lavish homes found elsewhere in America. According to an article in the Telegraph, he likes to sit down to a home-cooked meal on Monday nights, usually consisting of quesadillas or chile relleno. There are also stories of him being particularly careful with his cash. For example, in Venice, he didn’t want to pay full price for a neck tie that he was purchasing and bargained with the salesperson to get a reduction of 10 Euros.
3. He Doesn’t Use a Private Driver
Despite being a super-rich billionaire, Slim navigates the crazy Mexico City traffic without hesitation. In a city that in total has a population of about 21 million, there are multitudes of traffic issues. For that reason, many wealthy people opt to have a private driver who will get them from point A to point B without stress. However, that doesn’t appeal to Slim, who prefers to get behind the wheel himself. According to his son, Marco Antonio, Slim “always” drives himself and is closely followed by a bevy of bodyguards in dark SUV s.
2. He’s Obsessed with Baseball
Slim is fanatical about baseball – he loves it. He’s regularly in attendance at New York Yankees games, and can reel off match statistics without a problem. He told the Boston Globe that the top five hitters of all time are Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Ty Cobb, Lou Gehrig and Rogers Hornsby. As kid, living just a few miles away from where he now lives in Mexico City, he used to head outside on the street corner and play baseball. He denies wanting to buy a baseball team one day, saying that he just wants to keep on buying tickets to games.
1. Money Was Never His Goal
Perhaps it’s easy to claim that you’re not interested in being rich when you’re among the richest the world’s ever seen, but Carlos Slim has publicly stated that he’s not driven by his bank balance. He says he is interested in buying undervalued companies and building them into successful companies, thus making mega bucks in the process. As reported by CNBC, he has said that everyone has a vocation and that his is numbers. He said: “When you have a vocation for numbers you have many activities and you will develop yourself professionally, and that’s why I studied engineering. I like investments, creation of investments and economic activities that come with investments.”