World's Richest Man: The Carlos Slim Story

The Mexican mogul's key strategies

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How's this for clout: Lebanese-Mexican Carlos Slim Helú controls over 200 companies, has a fortune estimated at $53.5 billion, and is responsible for about 7 percent of Mexico's economic output. He is Forbes's richest man in the world, knocking Bill Gates off the top pedestal. In the last two years his wealth has increased by $40 billion. How did he do it? What business lessons can be gleaned from his rise? Here's what business writers are saying:

  • A Case-Study in Monopoly Building writes David Luhnow in The Wall Street Journal: "How did a Mexican son of Lebanese immigrants rise to such heights? By putting together monopolies, much like John D. Rockefeller did when he developed a stranglehold on refining oil in the industrial era. In the post-industrial world, Mr. Slim has a stranglehold on Mexico's telephones. His Teléfonos de México SAB and its cellphone affiliate Telcel have 92% of all fixed-lines and 73% of all cellphones. As Mr. Rockefeller did before him, Mr. Slim has accumulated so much power that he is considered untouchable in his native land, a force as great as the state itself."
  • He Believes in IT Above All Else, writes Bruce Watson at Daily Finance:
He has claimed that his close friend, futurist Alvin Toffler, has had a distinct influence on his investment strategy. For the past 30 years, Toffler has argued that the world is entering a 'third wave' post-industrial society, in which the flow of information is key for the production of money. That might explain why Slim has pursued investments, including Telmex, that have given him a stranglehold on the pipeline of electronic information flowing through Mexico. The connection between Toffler's predictions and Slim's investments is hardly accidental: When the two first met in 1993, Slim was carrying a well-thumbed, heavily-annotated copy of one of Toffler's books.

Slim admits that much of his fortune has come from his ability to recognize opportunities before anyone else, a skill that he attributes to his analysis of Toffler. Today, he reviews the writer's manuscripts before they are published.

  • Old Media Beats New Media, writes Drew Grant at Mediaite: "Even though Slim made his fortune in telecommunications, he’s most known in American media for his ties with The Times. So by beating out Bill Gates, maybe what we’re seeing here is actually a backward trend of billionaires becoming richer by investing in old, not new, media."
  • It's All About Cross-Border Stock Markets, writes Andrew Clark in The Guardian: "The old order is under threat at the world's billionaires club. Traditionally dominated by Americans and Europeans, the top ranks of the world's richest people have been infiltrated by scores of ultra-rich entrepreneurs from the developing world – capped by the Mexican telecoms tycoon Carlos Slim ... Economists say that a rapid rise in super-wealthy individuals from the developing world reflects the pace of globalisation, with cross-border stockmarkets allowing international investors to pump funds at the touch of a button into major corporations in Asia, Latin America and the Middle East."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.