- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 4, 2007

MEXICO CITY (Agence France-Presse) — Mexican telecommunications tycoon Carlos Slim Helu, worth an estimated $67.8 billion, has overtaken Microsoft founder Bill Gates as the richest person on the planet, the Mexican financial Web site Sentido Comun reported Monday.

Sentido Comun said the Mexican billionaire’s wealth had surpassed that of Mr. Gates because of the red-hot performance of Mr. Slim’s telecom firm, America Movil.

U.S.-based Forbes magazine, renowned for its rankings of the world’s wealthiest individuals, updated its listings in April to rank Mr. Slim as the second-richest individual in the world, as he superseded the legendary American investor Warren Buffett.

The Mexican financial Web site said Mr. Slim had established a firm lead over Mr. Gates whose worth was estimated at $59.2 billion.

“Thanks to a 26.5 percent rise in the shares of America Movil during the second quarter, Mr. Slim, who controls a 33 percent interest in Latin America’s largest mobile-phone company, is substantially richer than Mr. Gates,” Sentido Comun said.

“The difference between their two fortunes is around $9 billion in favor of Slim,” the Web site reported.

Sentido Comun said it based its calculations largely on the share-price movements of companies controlled by Mr. Slim.

The Web site noted that sterling performances by Mr. Slim’s other business interests had helped propel him past Mr. Gates.

Aside from America Movil, Mr. Slim controls the INBURSA financial group and the Grupo Carso industrial firm with interests spanning retail stores, coffee shops and restaurants.

One reason for Mr. Slim’s meteoric rise might be because he is also still working. Mr. Gates stepped aside as Microsoft chief in 2000 to devote his energies to the philanthropic foundation he runs with his wife, Melinda.

Forbes in April had pegged Mr. Slim’s wealth at a staggering $53.1 billion, and said Mr. Gates was sitting on a $56 billion fortune.

Mr. Slim, the son of Lebanese immigrants, had business as a career model from his early days when he helped out in his father’s shop called The Star of the Orient.

The 67-year-old mogul, who is heavyset and bearded, started out in real estate and was already affluent enough when he graduated from university with an engineering degree to buy stakes in a stock brokerage and a bottling firm.

During the crippling Latin American economic crisis of the early 1980s, Mr. Slim snapped up and reformed a number of distressed businesses, banking massive profits for Grupo Carso.

Carso gained its name from the first three letters of Mr. Slim’s name and the first two of his late wife’s name, Soumaya Gemayel.

Analysts say one of Mr. Slim’s smartest and most lucrative deals occurred when he took control of Telefonos de Mexico (Telemex) in 1990 as the government moved to privatize the sprawling monopoly.

Mr. Slim oversaw a $1.8 billion investment to take over Telemex, but he then overhauled the company and expanded its service as the telecommunications firm became the star of the Mexican stock exchange and more than returned Mr. Slim’s initial investment.

The Mexican billionaire has also made some savvy stock picks.

In 1997, he bought about 3 percent of Apple Computer at $17 a share shortly before the company introduced its hugely successful IMac computer. Twelve months later, Apple’s shares topped $100.

Despite his vast riches, Mr. Slim reportedly shuns corporate jets and flashy offices. He reportedly sported a plastic watch during the 1990s.

Widowed in 1999, Mr. Slim has boosted his philanthropic presence and overseen his three sons’ careers within his business empire.

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