The Power, Money and Morality of One of the World’s Richest Men

Carlos Slim

By Diego Osorno

“Historia de Grupo Carso” is the title of a document he wrote to share how his empire evolved….Grupo Carso’s business principles include working without any corporate staff (since the company should always be localised at the production plant, operations and sales, and with minimum operational expenditure). It also specifies that investment should always go into the production plant and the administration and distribution teams, never into corporate assets.

Slim explains:

‘The aim is to reduce the hierarchy to a minimum, bringing the directors as near as possible to the operations, and having them work for that and not for corporate structures. We try to combine executive activity with the interest of shareholders through a delegate of the president of the committee, who, working in conjunction with the directors, will seek to constantly optimise investments, strategy and expenditure’

Osorno describes how Slim was able to hugely benefit from the privatisation of Mexico and its adoption of further neoliberal policies.”

“It was during the intensive application of neoliberalism in Mexico, through the so-called Washington Consensus, that Slim amassed a significant share of his capital.

What is the Washington Consensus? It’s a term colloquially given to the economic modal imposed by world powers on developing countries. One of the best definitions provided comes from Indian writer Pankaj Mishra, who describes it as ‘the dominant ideological orthodoxy before the economic crisis of 2008: that no nation can advance without reining in labor unions, eliminating trade barriers, ending subsidies and, most importantly, minimising the role of the government.”

Slim — “Maybe, I don’t think money is a symbol of success, because you can have a lot of money, and yet be miserable and alone. Someone said of a person:’He was so poor, so very poor, that all he has was money.’ I think that sums it up very well.

Also, we need to make a distinction between money and business. It’s one thin to have X million or billion in the bank, or in cash, or in investments, or in whatever you like, and it’s another to have a business, where what you have is an important investment for society”

Slim went on, now commenting on the difference he saw between the concepts of income and wealth. He characterised income as the fruit of wealth, while wealth should be managed in such a way that it bears fruit, so that it can be distributed among others. “It’s the fruit that should be distributed, not the wealth itself. Does that make sense?”

“After completing his civil engineering studies at the UNAM, he found inspiration in the page of a Playboy magazine. One day, he read an article by Jean Paul Getty, the first man to accumulate a fortune of over $1 billion. Getty’s philosophy around the need to have a “millionaire mentality” to succeed made an impression on the young student.”

Osorno describes how in 1995, attorney Hamdan, as part of a lawsuit against Telmex, offered an analogy about the advantageous purchase of the state telephone company in which Hamdan equated the sale of Telmex with that of a taxi leased for under half its price, and in addition, with the privilege of circulating ton the street without any competitors.

“When selling Telmex, the government, sold a taxi worth 28,999 pesos at the price of 12,000. For good measure, it threw in receipts, license plates, road tax, route permissions, repair workshops, the profits of the whole year in which the purchase was made, and a six-month term to finish paying of the vehicle.”

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