Investing Answers Building and Protecting Your Wealth through Education Publisher of The Next Banks That Could Fail
Investing Answers Building and Protecting Your Wealth through Education Publisher of The Next Banks That Could Fail

10 Things You Didn't Know About Carlos Slim

Bill Gates and Warren Buffett are constantly make headlines, but their individual worth pale in comparison to the world's rich person .

Does the name Carlos Slim Helu ring a bell? No?!

Then you might  be surprised to learn that Carlos Slim Helu, a Mexican telecommunications magnate, has been named the world’s richest person for the past two years. Forbes lists his net worth at $74 billion. That is $18 billion more than Bill Gates and $24 billion more than "poor" Warren Buffett.

Want to know even more about the world's richest man? Here are 10 facts you didn't know about Carlos Slim Helu:

1. He’s the first World’s Richest Man from a developing nation.
Slim topped Forbes’ list of richest people in the world in 2010, marking the first time anyone from a developing nation topped the list. He was born in Mexico City, Mexico, but his family is of Lebanese descent.

2. His parents launched one of the first Arabic-language magazines for the Lebanese-Mexican Community.
Slim's maternal grandparents immigrated to Mexico from Lebanon in the late 19th century. They didn't pack light. In fact, they brought their own printing press to launch the magazine. Entrepreneurialism is certainly in his blood.

3. He began investing at a rather young age.

Carlos Slim and his siblings began learning about business as children from their enterprising father. When he was only 12 years old, Slim bought shares in a Mexican bank. Clearly, the phrase "it's never too early" was an important family philosophy.

4. Privatization and monopolization -- plus some help from the government -- are driving forces behind Slim's success.
In 1990, Slim worked with France Télécom and Southwestern Bell to buy and privatize the telephone company Telmex (NYSE: TMX), which was owned by the Mexican government. The company operates the majority of Mexican landlines. One of his other companies, America Movil (NYSE: AMX), is Latin America's largest mobile phone company, serving more than 150 million customers in 11 countries. 

If that sounds like a monopoly, that's because it is. As economist.com/node/8132001">The Economist points out, if one of Slim's  companies operated in the United States, it would have been broken up years ago. But the Mexican government doesn’t offer the same antitrust regulations we have in the U.S.

5. He is a master of diversification
Sure telecom is his main gig, but Slim controls more than 200 companies. He opened a Saks Fifth Avenue (NYSE: SKS)  in Mexico, owns shares of The New York Times Company (NYSE: NYT) and owns a Mexican hotel chain. He also bought the Mexican arm of Sears Roebuck and owns shares in the tobacco company Cigatam.

A 2007 Wall Street Journal profile of Slim said that "it's hard to spend a day in Mexico and not put money in his pocket."

(For more billionaire tips, check out this InvestingAnswers feature, "3 Billionaire Habits for Non-Billionaires.")

6. He is a technophobe.
According the same Wall Street Journal interview, Slim prefers old school pen and paper to a computer, though he loves to talk about technology.

7. He has influence in the United States.
In 2008, Slim made headlines when he bought a 6.4% stake in the New York Times Company and recently bought more, upping his stake to 7.5%.

However, he also loaned the New York Times $250 million in 2009 when they were in difficult financial times. This wasn't the first time he invested in the United States. Before their liquidation in late 2007, Slim indirectly controlled the now defunct computer retailer CompUSA. Additionally, Slim bought a 1% stake in Citigroup (NYSE: C)  in 2008 and has a 16% stake in Saks Fifth Avenue.

8. He's frugal.
What is it with billionaires being so frugal? Slim maintains a relatively low-key existence. He has lived in the same six-bedroom house for the past 30 years and even drives himself to work.

Rather than living a luxurious life around the world, he likes to enjoy his home country. He wears clothes from his own modest store, doesn't travel very much and doesn't own a single home outside of Mexico.

(To see how other billionaires are living these days, you can read this InvestingAnswers feature, "12 Luxuries Only Billionaires Can Afford.")

9. His philanthropy has its limits.
Slim has been criticized for accumulating so much wealth in a nation where about half the people are living in poverty. He did join President Bill Clinton and Canadian mining figure Frank Giustra to launch an anti-poverty campaign in Latin America.  But he told USA Today education and jobs can fight poverty better than charity. Still, he was on Forbes' list of the World's Biggest Givers in May 2011 for donating $4 billion to his anti-poverty foundation.

10. He loves baseball.
Slim has a passion for history, nature and art (he is considered the world's foremost collector of Rodin statues), but his greatest love is baseball. Slim has written several articles about the sport and is said to have an encyclopedic knowledge of the game. He's also been known to attend Major League Baseball games to root for the league's richest team: the Yankees.

The Investing Answer
: If Slim's story can teach us anything, it is that we are never too young to start learning how to be successful in the world of business and finance. He also provides a living example of how to live well below your means. If you want to learn how the world's billionaires are investing their fortunes, visit "5 Astonishing Billionaire Portfolios."