Carlos Slim

World’s richest man stays calm under fire

Globe and Mail Update

Carlos Slim is under attack. For decades, the world’s richest man built a business empire in his native Mexico with little resistance from the competition.

Today, the government and rival companies are determined to loosen his near-monopolistic hold on the country’s telecommunications sector, which has helped Mr. Slim accumulate a personal fortune estimated at more than $80-billion (U.S.).

Over the past three months, his Mexican mobile phone operator Telcel has been fined $1-billion for “monopolistic practices,” the government has thwarted his attempts to enter the pay-TV market and rivals have chipped away at his core business.

Yet, despite the pressure from regulators and competitors, the 71-year-old appears remarkably calm when we meet at the head office of Inbursa, his Mexican bank. The room is hung with canvases showing pastoral scenes, a window looks out on to a drab urban landscape, while a bookshelf covering one wall is crowded with Spanish classics, biographies of great financiers such as Bernard Baruch, and a row of dog-eared volumes of baseball statistics, one of his passions.

Yet even as others are trying to shrink his vast wealth, Mr. Slim is pondering how to put it to best use when he is gone. “Read this,” he says, pulling out a well-thumbed edition of Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet, that staple of student spirituality. He points to a line on page 487: “You give but little when you give of your possessions.”

Mr. Slim, with carefully combed hair and wearing an open-neck cream cotton shirt with button cuffs, was, until recently, too busy making money to worry about how to give it away.

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