How Carlos Slim Built His Net Worth and Became The Richest Person in Latin America

With a net worth of $69 billion, Carlos Slim is one of the wealthiest individuals in the world. The Mexican business magnate is also the richest person out of Latin America, and such a feat is due to his ability to turn around the fortunes of ailing companies. Another factor that accounts for his success is the diversity of his holdings which means that he can withstand shock in any sector. Slim’s empire now spans about 200 companies that cut across industries such as telecom, banking and finance, insurance, retail, hotels, oil and gas, mining, construction, energy, and technology.

He employs over a quarter of a million people globally and the valuation of his conglomerate is around $4.6 billion. Such a feat deserves several accolades. His philanthropic endeavors have also endeared him to many, but he is not without detractors. For some, Carlos Slim is an individual who depended on deep political connections and favorable legislation to dominate every sector of the Mexican economy. That unchecked domination, for them, has resulted in further widening the inequality gap and creating a filthy-rich oligarch amongst a population that is still largely poor.

Carlos Slim’s Father Was a Lebanese Immigrant Who Made His Fortune from Real Estate

Carlos Slim’s journey to becoming the wealthiest Latina on the planet is intricately interwoven with his family background. As the story goes, he is the son of a Lebanese Christian who immigrated to Mexico at an early age. Slim’s father, Julian Slim (original name – Yusef Salim Haddad), fled the Ottoman Empire at the age of 14 to avoid military conscription. He landed in Mexico in 1901 and set about making an honest living. A decade later, he was able to set up a dry goods store.

The store did quite well and the senior Slim became wealthy. All he worked for, however, threatened to disappear following the bloody Mexican revolution that spanned 1910-1920. The revolution left many people dead and the remaining survivors fled. Julian refused to do so but rather used his savings to buy up the properties that people were all too eager to sell-off. When things normalized, he resold the cheaply-bought properties at high prices and was able to make a killing.

It, therefore, meant that by the time Carlos Slim came into the world in 1940, his father was already a respected businessman and a millionaire. The young Carlos innately inherited some business acumen from his dad. His dad also went the extra mile of teaching him principles surrounding finance, management, and accounting. He also taught him how to keep and read financial records and the young boy internalized all he had been taught.

Carlos Slim
A young Slim with his family Image Source

Slim Made His First Investment at the Age of 11 and Founded His Own Stock Brokerage Firm, Inversora Bursatil, at the Age of 25

Thanks to his father’s words of wisdom, Carlos Slim developed a habit of saving his money bit by bit, and by the age of 11, he invested these savings in a government bond. By the age of 12, he bought shares in a bank and continued increasing his shareholding until he became one of the major shareholders of the bank. Whilst doing all this, the young Carlos did not neglect his education but went on to complete secondary school like any other child. He then moved on to the National Autonomous University of Mexico and studied civil engineering. He also took courses in economics, and upon completing his Degree in 1961, he delved straight into his business career.

Slim started his career as a stock trader. He did this for four years and saved up money with which he set up his own brokerage firm known as Inversora Bursatil in 1965. The company did quite well and within a year of operation, its owner acquired a net worth of $40 million. With that fortune at hand, Carlos Slim established an investment advisory company known as Inmobiliaria Carso (changed to Inversora Carso in 2016) in 1966, and the business equally thrived as well. His net worth consequently increased in the 60s and 70s but by the 80s, he faced the same type of adversity that had once confronted his father before him.

This specifically happened in the year 1982 when the Mexican economy suffered so much contraction that the country defaulted on its foreign debts. The government resorted to nationalizing banks and this sent many foreign investors scurrying out of the country. Just like his father before him, Slim used that as an opportunity to buy up several companies (such as Cigatam, Reynolds Aluminum, General Tire, and Sanborns Chain of Stores) at bargain prices. He turned these companies from struggling concerns to profit-making ventures and later sold off some of them, making a killing in the process and retaining ownership of some others.

Carlos Slim
Carlos Slim touring his Plaza Carso development in 2010 Image Source

Carlos Slim’s Huge Net Worth Comes From His Control of America Movil – The Largest Telecom Provider in Latin America

The defining moment of Carlos Slim’s financial career, which now accounts for the majority of his wealth, is his ownership of the telecom companies, Telmex and America Movil. Telmex was previously the state-owned national provider of telephony services throughout Mexico. At a point, there arose a need to nationalize it and the government started taking bids in that regard. One of them was a $6 billion joint bid from Southwestern Bell (SBC), France Telecom, and Slim’s company which was approved in 1990. Slim and his business partners were also given a six-year monopoly to operate fixed telephony in the Mexican market and the sky became their stepping stone.

Telmex quickly expanded from Mexico to several other Latin American countries and just four years after the acquisition, Carlos Slim’s net worth rose to $6.6 billion. That increase has continued till today as Telmex (now owned by America Movil) has steadily grown to become the largest mobile telecom firm in Latin America. It also ranks amongst the top ten largest telecom firms in the whole world. The company’s subscriber base is put at about 361 million with Mexico remaining its largest market with over 76.92 million. The company has a valuation of $980 million and Slim retains the major stake which accordingly accounts for about two-thirds of his net worth.

Carlos Slim Helu in talks with Steve Forbes Image Source

His Grupo Carso Conglomerate Spans the Hospitality, Construction, Media, Industrial Supplies and Mining Sectors

Carlos Slim has since utilized the wealth he made from the telecoms sector to diversify his business holdings. He has founded several companies, all of which are now housed under the umbrella of Grupo Carso. Some of them include Minera Frisco (a mining company); Sanborns Stores, Sanborns Café, Sears Mexico, Dorian’s, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Mixup (Retail); Cigatam (Tobacco); Banco Inbursa, Seguros Inbursa, Afore Inbursa, Operadora Inburs, Casa De Bolsa Inversora Bursatil, and Citi Group (Finance); CDM, Equitter, Industrias IEM, Sinergia, Microcom, and Condumex Incorporated (Industrial Supplies).

Others are Carso Infraestructura Y, CILSA, Servicios Intergrales GSM, Urvitec, Swecomex, PC Constructores, and CISCA Ductos (Construction & infrastructure); Hotel Geneve, Calinda Beach, and Ramada Gateway (hospitality); Grupo Star Medica (medical services); Universidad Tecnologica De Mexico (Education), Ferrosur and Ferromex (transportation); and Tabasco Oil, Allis-Chalmers Energy Inc, and Gas Natural Fenosa (oil and gas). It is estimated that Grupo Carso now employs over 200,000 people around the globe and has a market cap of $8.9 billion.

Carlos Slim also has stakes in reputable media organizations such as the New York Times (U.S.) and the Independent (U.K.). He has also launched a Nuestra Vision TV channel for Latina audiences in the U.S. Other investments by the ace business magnate include Volaris (airline), Shazam (music identification app), Mobil (Israeli social media site), Bankia (Spanish bank), Realia (Spanish real estate company), and Imatchative (a tech start-up that provides behavioral profiles and business analytics of hedge funds). Bloomberg estimates that Slim has raked in no less than $10 billion dollars from his investments over the years.

In talks with fellow billionaire, Bill Gates Image Source

Carlos Slim owns Several Football Clubs including Pachuca and Leon F.C.

Sports is another avenue through which billionaires further consolidate their investments and Carlos Slim is not left out. The Mexican business magnate has ownership stakes in several football clubs in his motherland including Leon and Pachuca. He is also the outright owner of the lower league side, Estudiantes Tecos.

In November 2012, Slim grabbed some positive headlines for himself when he stepped in to save the beloved Spanish club, Real Oviedo, from extinction. The team had previously done well and even played in the Spanish first division. They then endured some torrid times which saw them plummet to the third division. The club’s situation was further worsened by financial mismanagement and this saw them face the prospect of bankruptcy.

The only option that they had at this point was to raise about $2.4 million and the club’s fans rose to the occasion by buying shares of up to $1.9 million. Such a feat impressed several people, including Slim who then decided to step in and give them a further $2.5 million. The decision was as much a kind gesture as it was a sports investment and made him the club’s largest shareholder.

Slim with one of his numerous accolades Image Source

The Business Magnate Has a Massive Real Estate Portfolio But Has Lived in the Same House for 40 Years

The kind of fortune that Carlos Slim commands means that he can easily live the rich and famous life with a bevy of mansions, yachts, private jets, and sports cars at his beck and call like other billionaires. This is not the case though as he prefers to live a modest life.

Slim’s primary residence is a six-bedroom house which he has occupied for the last four decades. Located in the affluent Lomas de Chapultepec district, the house is near Slim’s childhood home and is also the same area where his company is headquartered. Away from Mexico, he is the owner of the historic Benjamin N. and Sarah Duke house on Fifth Avenue, Manhattan, New York City. He bought the 19,000 square-foot, eight-stories building for about $44 million in 2006.

Other properties that belong to him include an 11-story office tower in New York as well as a Beverly Hills mansion. Slim also owns several shopping centers in Mexico as well as the famed Inbursa Aquarium in Mexico City. Billed as the largest aquarium in Mexico, it covers 3500 square meters and has five stories, four of which are underground. It features over 10,000 animals emanating from over 300 different species. The aquarium cost $19 million and opened its door to the public in 2014. There’s no doubt that its owner would have made significant ROIs seeing as it is one of a kind in all of Mexico.

Carlos Slim Has Supported Health and Education Initiatives through His Eponymous Foundation

With a $69.1 billion net worth, many people expect that Carlos Slim will be one of the most enthusiastic philanthropists in the world but this is not so. It isn’t that the Mexican business magnate does not like using his wealth to help people but he strongly subscribes to the idea that handing out charity is not the solution to poverty but rather empowering people with jobs. This belief has guided Slim for years but in recent times, he has funneled billions of dollars to assist the less privileged through his eponymous foundation.

The Carlos Slim foundation focuses on areas such as health and education and has recorded some great strides. In the area of health, they have supported medical work on infection, malnutrition, reproductive health, and emerging diseases. They also launched a $150 million Salud Mesoamerica Health Initiative in 2015. The initiative was done in conjunction with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and provides funds for regions in southern Mexico and Central America so that they can improve reproductive, maternal, neonatal, and child health facilities.

The foundation has also done impressive work in the areas of empowerment and environmental protection. They donated $50 million to the World Wildlife Fund in 2009 to develop environmental recovery and reforestation projects in Mexico. They also partnered with the Grameen Trust in 2009 to provide small loans to poor individuals through their microcredit program. Such efforts have fetched Carlos Slim numerous accolades but his critics are not impressed. They see his philanthropy as hypocritical given that he owns companies that engage in harmful practices such as the sale of tobacco as well as pollution of the environment.

He is Also a Big Patron of the Arts and Has Contributed to Preserving the Historic Value of Mexico City

Another area where Carlos Slim has made an undeniable impact is in the art world. The business magnate and his late wife shared a love for the arts and had been collecting exquisite pieces for a while. He subsequently decided to share them with members of the public by opening a museum named after his wife in 1994. The Museo Soumaya remains in existence to date and has 183,000 square feet of exhibition space. It features over 60,000 works of art from iconic names like Leonardo Da Vinci and Pablo Picasso. It also carries rare coins, historical documents, and religious relics.

Apart from the museum, Slim is also passionate about preserving the historical value of his beloved Mexico City. He established a foundation, The Foundation for the Historic Centre of Mexico City, to that regard in 2000. The foundation has played a great role in preserving culturally significant buildings in the city and for this, Carlos Slim was given the Hadrian Award by the World Monuments Fund in 2004. This adds to a smattering of awards that he has received in the course of his career which are listed below.

Awards and Recognitions Received By Carlos Slim

  • President’s Medal from the George Washington University in 2009
  • Malcolm S. Forbes Lifetime Achievement Award 2011
  • Dwight D. Eisenhower Global Leadership Award 2012
  • Clinton Global Citizen Award in 2012
  • Honorary Ph.D. from George Washington University in 2012
  • World Telecommunication Information Society Award 2014
  • National Prize for Sports 2017
  • The Andrea Bocelli Humanitarian Award 2017
  • National Engineering Prize from the Mexican Association of Engineers and Architects 2018
  • Queen Sophia Spanish Institute Award for Excellence 2020
Ngozika Agu
Ngozika Agu
Ngozika can turn any personal finance or entertainment information into an exciting, delightful and compelling article that informs and educates, she can quickly turn random letters into epic stories that not only entertain but also inspires or motivates


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