Meet Carlos Slim Helu, the wealthiest man in Mexico

Carlos Slim Helu, Mexico’s wealthiest man and one of the richest self-made billionaires in the world, flies under the radar more than you might expect, considering he owns more than 200 companies in Mexico, which is also known as “Slimlandia.”

With a net worth of $US35.4 billion, Slim’s influence is far-reaching in Mexico and abroad.

So what drives the man who built a giant business empire across one of the poorest countries in the Americas? Read on to find out.

Slim's parents were Lebanese immigrants, who moved to Mexico before his birth. They endowed their son with strong values, and his father taught him to read financial documents and invest at a young age. Slim has carefully preserved his childhood home and keeps a photograph of his father on his desk.

After moving to Mexico, Slim's father was successful in both retail and real estate; upon his death in 1953, his son Carlos inherited his businesses.

Source: Wealth-X

Slim also holds a deep love for his country. He said, 'Mexico is so rich in culture and history, and I have always enjoyed that.'

Slim was born in Mexico City in 1940.

Source: Telegraph UK

Slim went to college at Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico, or UNAM, Mexico's National Autonomous University. He studied Civil Engineering and graduated in 1961. Soon after, he founded his first company, Inversora Bursatil, an insurance company.

The library at UNAM.

Source: Wealth-X

Though Slim is known best as founder and chairman of the conglomerate Grupo Carso and chairman of the telecommunications giant Telmex, his riches also result from many other business ventures. Slim spent much of the '60s, '70s, and '80s building a diverse portfolio that now dominates the Mexican economy.

Source: Wealth-X

Slim has a foolproof strategy for making money: He acquires struggling companies and transforms them into multi-billion dollar holdings before selling his stake at a profit. In particular, he took advantage of the Mexican debt crisis in 1982 in order to purchase many deflated companies.

We saw Slim's strategy first-hand in the US in 2009, when he loaned $250 million to The New York Times. At a 14% interest rate, you can bet he profited from this deal. Slim saw the deal as a business venture, rather than a foray into journalism, and he's now the largest individual shareholder of the Times.

In 2010, Slim surpassed Bill Gates as the richest man in the world; it was the first time in 16 years that the world's richest man wasn't from the US. Though Bill Gates is currently the richest man in the world once again, Slim is the wealthiest in Mexico with a net worth of at least $35.4 billion.

Source: Wealth-X, Forbes

Slim's presence is all over Mexico. The Telegraph reports, 'The reach of his dominion is so large that the average Mexican will wake up on sheets bought from a Slim-owned store; buy their morning bread from a Slim-owned bakery; and drive to work in a Slim-insured car…'

Despite his critics, Slim states that since becoming a billionaire, he has 'more activity, more responsibility, and more compromise… The compromise is the challenge of solving Mexico's problems. I'm trying to make our country better in the areas that I can.'

Source: Wealth-X, Forbes

Slim says that his biggest goal is poverty alleviation, which he sees as the responsibility of private businessmen like himself. He has revealed plans to invest over $4 billion in various Mexican industries in 2015 and has received numerous awards for philanthropy.

Source: Wealth-X, Forbes

Though he is inordinately wealthy, Slim does not believe in conspicuous consumption -- he doesn't own any yachts or planes. Most of his money goes towards further investments in business or philantropy, though he does have a set of hand-carved and blown Baccarrat wine glasses that were owned by the previous president of Mexico.

Tim Padgett, who interviewed Slim for Time magazine, said, 'Just by looking at him, you would never know he is a billionaire.' Slim has lived in the same six-bedroom house for 40 years. He indulges in only two big luxuries: Cuban cigars and art collecting.

Slim's home, his childhood home, and the Telmex offices are all located in Lomas de Chapultepec, a small but affluent neighbourhood in Mexico City's financial district.

Source: Wealth-X, The Telegraph, American Journalism Review

Slim is a unique billionaire in that he has no homes outside of Mexico; however, he has numerous real estate holdings, including a mansion on Fifth Avenue that he purchased in 2010 as an investment. It is now on the market for $80 million, which would make it the most expensive townhouse ever sold in New York City and almost double Slim's initial investment.

Slim was married to his wife, Soumaya, for 32 years, but she passed away in 1999 due to renal failure. The couple had six children together, who will inherit Slim's empire. Slim actually named his first company after her -- the word 'Carso' in Grupo Carso is an amalgamation of the names Carlos and Soumaya.

Source: Wealth-X

In 1994, Slim opened the Museo Soumaya, a free-admission non-profit art museum in Mexico City named after his late wife, Soumaya. It houses the largest private Rodin collection in the world.

Since his wife's death, rumours have circulated of Slim's subsequent romances, most famously with Queen Noor al-Hussein of Jordan. Both Soumaya and Queen Noor's husband, King Hussein, passed away within one day of one another in 1999. Ten years later, newspaper outlets reported that Slim and the Queen of Jordan had formed a close relationship that included jetsetting around the globe and dining in secret at friends' houses.

Sources: Wealth-X, Daily Star

Though Slim still maintains ultimate control of his companies, he has handed over much of the responsibility and decision-making to his three sons, Carlos, Marco Antonio, and Patrick, and to his son-in-law, Arturo Elías Ayub.

Carlos Slim's son, Carlos Slim Domit, at the World Economic forum in 2012.

Source: Wealth-X, Forbes

Since 2004, Slim has stepped down from the boards of his three largest companies in order to focus on family, philanthropy, and his own health. Every Monday he has dinner with his children and their spouses to discuss business, and every Wednesday he has lunch with his grandchildren.

Source: Wealth-X, Forbes

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