Mexico's richest man lives a surprisingly frugal life for a billionaire. Take a look at the life of Carlos Slim, who owns Sears Mexico and has lived in the same house for 40 years.

kwarren@businessinsider.com (Katie Warren)
·11 min read
Carlos Slim
Carlos Slim

Carlos Slim is the wealthiest man in Mexico by far.

Cario Lopez-Mills/ AP

Carlos Slim Helu — Mexico's wealthiest man — is one of the richest self-made billionaires in the world.

Slim's influence is far-reaching in Mexico and abroad. Bloomberg estimates Slim's net worth to be at least $44 billion, but he could be worth as much as $51 billion, according to Forbes.

But, considering he's involved in hundreds of companies in Mexico, which is also known as "Slimlandia," Slim flies under the radar more than you might expect.

Despite his wealth, Slim lives a relatively frugal lifestyle; he's lived in the same six-bedroom house for more than 40 years.

Here's a look at Slim's life and massive business empire.

Christi Danner contributed to an earlier version of this article.

Carlos Slim is worth at least $43.6 billion, making him the richest person in Mexico.


carlos slim
carlos slim

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

He's among the 25 richest people in the world.

Bloomberg's Billionaire Index ranks him at No. 24 with an estimated net worth of $43.6 billion, while Forbes put him at No. 21 with an estimated net worth of $51 billion.

In 2016, Slim ranked as the fifth-richest person in the world, but his fortune has taken a major hit over the past few years.


carlos slim
carlos slim

REUTERS/Edgard Garrido

Right after Donald Trump's election in November 2016, global markets contracted and the Mexican peso's value fell to a record low, causing Slim to lose more than 9% of his wealth, according to Money magazine.

And in March 2017, Bloomberg reported that no other billionaire had lost more money than Slim during Trump's presidency, which the publication attributed partially to the president's "tough talk" on Mexico.

The coronavirus pandemic has taken yet another toll on the Mexican billionaire's wealth. In early March, he lost nearly $5 billion in a single day on "Black Monday," which was a day of major market losses due to growing global concerns about the coronavirus.

Most of Slim's wealth comes from his 57% stake in America Movil, the biggest mobile-phone operator in Latin America.


america movil
america movil

REUTERS/Edgard Garrido/File Photo

The company reported revenue of $52 billion in 2019.

He also has holdings in banking and mining, as well as interests in the construction industry in Mexico.


Carlos Slim
Carlos Slim

Eloy Alonso/ Reuters

These interests are controlled through the family business: infrastructure, construction, and energy conglomerate Grupo Carso.

Slim's son, Carlos Slim Domit, is now chairman of the board at Grupo Carso. Carlos Slim speaks with his son and Chairman of the Board of Directors of Grupo Carso, Carlos Slim Domit, in Mexico City in February 2018.

carlos slim
carlos slim

REUTERS/Edgard Garrido

Source: Bloomberg

Slim holds stakes in several other publicly traded companies, including CaixaBank and The New York Times. Carlos Slim at The New York Times New Work Summit in February 2016 in Half Moon Bay, California.

carlos slim new york times
carlos slim new york times

Kimberly White/Getty Images for New York Times

Bloomberg estimates that Slim has raked in nearly $10 billion in dividends from his investments.

Slim was born to Lebanese immigrant parents in Mexico City in 1940.


Carlos Slim
Carlos Slim

ITU/ YouTube

His father taught him to read financial documents and invest at a young age.

Slim's father was successful in both retail and real estate, and Carlos inherited his business after his death in 1953. Slim's parents.

Carlos Slim
Carlos Slim

ITU/ YouTube

Source: Wealth-X

Slim holds a deep love for his country. Slim was born in Mexico City in 1940.

Mexico City 1940
Mexico City 1940

Wikimedia Commons

"Mexico is so rich in culture and history, and I have always enjoyed that," he told the Telegraph in 2011.

Slim went to college at Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico, or UNAM, Mexico's National Autonomous University, studying civil engineering and graduating in 1961. The library at UNAM.

UNAM_Biblioteca_Central
UNAM_Biblioteca_Central

Wikimedia Commons

Soon after, he founded his first company, Inversora Bursatil, an insurance company.

Though Slim is known best as the chief shareholder of America Movil and the founder of the Grupo Carso conglomerate, his riches also result from many other business ventures.


carlos slim
carlos slim

OMAR TORRES/AFP/Getty Images

Slim spent much of the '60s, '70s, and '80s building a diverse portfolio that now dominates the Mexican economy.

Slim has a clear strategy for making money: He acquires struggling companies and transforms them into multibillion-dollar holdings before selling his stake at a profit.


carlos slim
carlos slim

JORGE UZON/AFP/Getty Images

In particular, he took advantage of the Mexican debt crisis in 1982 in order to purchase many deflated companies.

We saw Slim's strategy firsthand in the US in 2009, when he loaned $250 million to The New York Times at a 14% interest rate.


New York Times
New York Times

Lucas Jackson/ Reuters

Slim saw the deal as a business venture, rather than a foray into journalism.

But Slim announced in 2017 that he would sell almost half his New York Times shares by 2020.


carlos slim
carlos slim

Kimberly White/Getty Images for New York Times

In 2018 alone, he sold at least $86 million worth of his shares.

Slim first entered the international spotlight in 1991 when he appeared on Forbes' billionaires list with a net worth of $1.7 billion.


Carlos Slim
Carlos Slim

ITU Pictures/ Flickr

The previous year, he saw his first big success when Grupo Carso went public and led the privatization of state phone company Telmex, per Forbes.

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.


bill gates carlos slim
bill gates carlos slim

REUTERS/Henry Romero

Though Gates is once again richer than Slim and Jeff Bezos reigns as the world's richest person, Slim is the wealthiest person in Mexico by far.

The next-richest person in Mexico is Sara Mota de Larrea, whose $11.1 billion fortune stems from her position as the biggest shareholder in Grupo Mexico, a publicly traded conglomerate founded by her late husband that has a lucrative mining division.

Slim's presence is all over Mexico.


carlos slim
carlos slim

REUTERS/Henry Romero

As The Guardian reported in 2017, "It is sometimes hard to tell where Carlos Slim stops and Mexico City starts."

"He controls most of the mobile phone, landline and internet markets," Feike De Jong wrote in the Guardian.


Carlos Slim Telmex
Carlos Slim Telmex

Fred Prouser/ Getty/ Daniel Aguilar/ Getty

"His telecoms company, Telmex, installed the city's surveillance cameras," De Jong continued. "Grupo Carso, his flagship infrastructure conglomerate, runs the city's principal water treatment plant. His bank, Inbursa, is Mexico's."

Slim even owns Mexico City's only aquarium.


carlos slim mexico city aquarium
carlos slim mexico city aquarium

AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell

Source: The Guardian

The Mexican billionaire also owns Sears Mexico. A Sears in Mexico City in 1997.

sears mexico
sears mexico

AP Photo/Marco Ugarte

His company paid $103 million for a 60% stake in the company in 1997.

As Sears stores shuttered in the US following the company declaring bankruptcy in 2018, Sears has been thriving in Mexico, growing in both locations and sales. A worker removes sale banners inside a closed Sears department store one day after it closed in January 2019

empty sears store closure retail apocalypse
empty sears store closure retail apocalypse

REUTERS/Mike Segar

Source: Business Insider

Slim's critics accuse him of being a monopolist whose practices drive prices and unemployment through the roof.


carlos slim
carlos slim

REUTERS/Henry Romero

But the billionaire doesn't let criticism bother him: "When you live for others' opinions, you are dead," he said. "I don't want to live thinking about how I'll be remembered."

In fact, Slim has no need to cater to public opinion.


carlos slim
carlos slim

Michael Fleshman/ Flickr

His wealth has granted him political influence to the extent that, for the most part, the Mexican government turns a blind eye to the dominance he has over the telecom industry.

Despite his critics, Slim states that since becoming a billionaire, he has "more activity, more responsibility, and more compromise …"


Carlos Slim
Carlos Slim

Reuters

"The compromise is the challenge of solving Mexico's problems," he told Forbes in 2012. "I'm trying to make our country better in the areas that I can."

Slim says one of his biggest goals is alleviating poverty, and that it needs to happen at the institutional level.


carlos slim
carlos slim

UN Geneva/ Flickr

"Poverty isn't solved with donations," he told Forbes in 2012. "The establishment of business is more beneficial to society than going around like Santa Claus."

Despite his wealth, Slim does not believe in conspicuous consumption — he reportedly doesn't own any yachts or planes.


Carlos Slim
Carlos Slim

Eloy Alonso/ Reuters

Most of his money goes towards further investments in business or philanthropy, though he does reportedly have a set of hand-carved and blown Baccarat wine glasses that were owned by the previous president of Mexico.

Slim has lived in the same six-bedroom house for 40 years and indulges in only two big luxuries: Cuban cigars and art collecting.


Lomas de Chapultepec
Lomas de Chapultepec

Google Earth

Tim Padgett, who interviewed Slim for Time magazine, said, "Just by looking at him, you would never know he is a billionaire."

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

mexico city
mexico city

Google Maps

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

Slim purchased a mansion on Fifth Avenue in New York City for $44 million in 2010 as an investment, not a residence.


taxi carlos slim mansion
taxi carlos slim mansion

Mario Tama/Getty Images

Source: Business Insider, Bloomberg, Curbed

In 2015, the mansion was put on the market for $80 million, $36 million more than what he paid for it.


carlos slim townhouse
carlos slim townhouse

Mario Tama/Getty Images

But in 2016, it was taken off the market with no sale recorded.

Slim was married to his wife, Soumaya, for 32 years.


Carlos Slim Soumaya
Carlos Slim Soumaya

Reuters

She passed away in 1999 due to renal failure. The couple has six children, who will inherit Slim's empire.

In 1994, Slim opened the Museo Soumaya, a nonprofit art museum with free admission in Mexico City named after his late wife, Soumaya.


Museo Soumaya
Museo Soumaya

Wikimedia Commons

At one point, it housed the largest private Rodin collection in the world.

After his wife's death, rumors circulated of Slim's subsequent romances, most famously with Queen Noor al-Hussein of Jordan. Queen Noor of Jordan.

Queen Noor of Jordan
Queen Noor of Jordan

Mike Coppola/ Getty Images

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 jet-setting around the globe and dining in secret at friends' houses.

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. Carlos Slim and his family seen in May 2015 in Oviedo, Spain.

carlos slim
carlos slim

Europa Press/Europa Press via Getty Images

Every Monday he has dinner with his children and their spouses to discuss business, and every Wednesday he has lunch with his grandchildren, he said in a 2012 Forbes interview.

Slim still maintains ultimate control of his companies, but 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.

Carlos Slim Domit
Carlos Slim Domit

Wikimedia Commons

Two of his grandchildren also sit on boards of his companies.

Slim's daughter, Johanna, is a shareholder of his company, Grupo Carso. Johanna and Carlos Slim, her father.

carlos slim johanna
carlos slim johanna

AP Photo/Nick Wagner

Source: Wealth-X, Forbes

Johanna and Slim's other daughters, Vanessa and Soumaya, are involved in the Slim family's philanthropic endeavors as well as the arts. Soumaya Slim, left, and her father, Carlos Slim, at the inauguration of the new location of the family's Soumaya Museum in Mexico City in 2011.

soumaya carlos slim
soumaya carlos slim

AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo

Source: Forbes

Slim has said publicly that a succession plan for his company has been made, but he has not given details. Carlos Slim speaks with his son, Marco Antonio Slim Domit.

carlos slim
carlos slim

PEDRO PARDO/AFP/Getty Images

Source: Forbes

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