Carlos Slim (pg. 3)
A few days after my first set of interviews, the entire Slim family, including grandchildren, was set to take a vacation together on the beaches of western Mexico near the Sea of Cortez. I asked how many people were going, and Slim's son-in-law Arturo Elias, who was sitting in on the session with Carlos Jr., started to count the family members in his head. "The only bachelor is Carlos," Elias said, smiling. "And my father," Carlos added. "So we count them as a couple," Elias joked.
By all accounts the family seems to enjoy spending time together. The elder Slim and his sons and sons-in-law meet for dinner every Monday night in la casa familiar, the family house. "My mother and father were very close to us," Carlos Jr. told me. "They taught us to try to be happy with your life and also to be conscious of the responsibility we have" as a prosperous clan.
The issue of responsibility is one that is already dominating the thinking of family members and outsiders alike, given Slim's new designation as the richest man in the world. He has a "historical opportunity to become the Rockefeller of Latin America," says Jose Antonio Rios, a former Global Crossing and Teléfonica executive who now runs a U.S. real estate holding company. "A wealthy, powerful family like the Slims could be a tremendously positive factor in the next 25 years of development in Latin America."
What form will that take exactly? The Slims' three main foundations have roughly $4 billion today, and they've pledged at least another $6 billion over the next several years. Among the causes: institutes for health and education, each seeded with $500 million to start. Slim has been a big backer of Nicholas Negroponte's One Laptop Per Child initiative, and Bill Clinton recently convinced Slim to donate at least $100 million to his foundation's efforts to reduce poverty in Latin America. He also has invested heavily in refurbishing Mexico City's Centro histórico, or downtown. That said, the family tends to embrace economic development rather than donations as a way of eradicating poverty. "I think the best way to help people is not to give them money but to give them a job," says Marco Antonio. "We support education, health, and employment - that's what people need for a better life." Carlos Sr. caught a lot of flak from the Mexican press and U.S. commentators earlier this year when he was quoted as saying that he had no intention of "going around like Santa Claus" distributing his wealth.
Indeed, Slim seems to have a slightly different view of how he might give back. A few years ago he won an award from the World Education and Development Fund for his work on infrastructure in the developing world. His entire family accompanied him to the dinner in New York City. In his acceptance speech, Slim explained his life's work: "Many people want to leave a better world for their children," he told the crowd. "I'm trying to leave better children for my world."