Sunday, May 31, 2009

Carlos Slim, Telmex, and The New York Times

Lawrence Wright, in this week's New Yorker, profiles Mexico's Carlos Slim. Slim is the third-richest person in the world (behind Bill Gates and Warren Buffett), and some of the best parts of the article discuss his relatively plain lifestyle: he drives his own car, is the only Mexican among the two hundred richest without a home in the US, and wears clothes with holes in them (now this I love!).

From childhood, Slim was fascinated with compound interests and investments, and it sounds like he steadily built a diverse portfolio of business/real estate investments (including Sanborns (a Wal-Mart type chain in Mexico), Seguros de Mexico (an insurance company), Reynolds Aluminum, etc.) -- he and timed certain buy/sell decisions perfectly (further evidence for my theory that a significant portion of business success can depend on one's sense of timing).

His key investment -- the one that took him from rich to super rich -- is/was his take in Telmex, Mexico's national phone company which was privatized in the early 1990's.

Slim's (and his wife's) parents were immigrants from Lebanon, and the article points out that Mexico has a large number of immigrants from the Middle East.

239. So many fortunes have been made, during the past twenty years, in the phone // cell phone // telecommunications industry. What's the current industry that's similarly positioned, today, to take off? I assume it's some subcategory within health care technology, and I imagine that there's tremendous energy within the investment world devoted to identifying the particular subcategory.

240. The article points out that Slim has acquired large debt and equity stakes in the New York Times Company. Thomas Friedman speaks glowingingly about the Sulzberger family's stewardship of the Times, but other sources say they are not good business managers. Does Slim view the Times as a fun hobby-investment for the retirement stage of his life, or does he genuinely think there's money to be made in it?

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