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CNN Larry King Live

Interview With Carlos Slim

Aired December 03, 2010 - 21:00   ET



LARRY KING, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Tonight the richest man on earth, Carlos Slim. What's it like to be worth more than $50 billion?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think that anything that has privilege --

KING: The mogul tells us how he made it, how he keeps it and fears for his safety.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We moved security.

KING: Believe it or not, lives like the rest of us. We'll show you a humble, unassuming tycoon, the extraordinary Carlos Slim for the hour next on LARRY KING LIVE.


KING: It is an honor to welcome to LARRY KING LIVE Carlos Slim, he's number one on the "Forbes" 2010 list of the wealthiest people and we're honored to welcome him to our studios here in Los Angeles. How did it feel when you were ranked number one?

CARLOS SLIM, WORLD'S RICHEST PERSON: Thank you very much for your invitation, Larry.

KING: My pleasure.

SLIM: Any kind of difference before, after, during, is not important I think. What is important is what you are doing and how you are operating the company that you are managing and when you have the investments of many part of the public investing in this company.

KING: So it's not a particular honor?

SLIM: No, no, no. It's not championship. It's the competence. The competence in your sector with the other companies not looking to have some kind of records in this issue.

KING: When you topped the annual richest list back in March, they listed your net worth at $53.5 billion. Is that about right?

SLIM: I really don't care about my ration. What they do is to know how much chair of the companies that we have investments and we are managing and has the market price. The market price changes every day, every time with a lot of volatility and you cannot -- waiting, making balance sheets of what is happening. What you're taking care is about the operation of the business, the developing of the business, the investments of the companies. The technology you are using. The segment you are in, how are you managing the --

KING: How many companies are you involved with?

SLIM: Well, the main companies are the -- and then each company can have many other subsidiaries just like a formal way to manage. We are involving the financial market with the financial company.

That means full service of financing, investment banking, commercial bank and insurance. We have -- I have 45 years that I founded the company. It was three or four days ago that it was 45 years. We are involved in telecommunications in all Latin America and in the United States. In U.S., we have a holding that is (inaudible) and mining mainly and other industrial sectors.

KING: How do you stay on top of all that?

SLIM: Well, how can you be on top of the things you do? I think when you are involved in a business, first of all you need to know the business. After that you know the business, you can -- the numbers tell you what is happening. You can read with the numbers.

If things are going well, if are not going well. You make cooperation with your competitors. You look at the international references to try to achieve the best reference nationally. And you are following the business not necessarily going to the -- go to America to see what is happening and what our thinking. The numbers talk to you.

KING: Were you always good with numbers?

SLIM: Yes, yes, I think so. Some people are very good with letters and others have a numbers that you can manage numbers in different ways and you read the numbers and you understand what is happening in the companies.

KING: It's estimated you and your family control more than 200 companies. You're one of Mexico's largest private employers. You're in control of so many things. Do you feel, Carlos, as I've gotten to know you, do you feel enormous responsibility?

SLIM: Yes. I think that anything that has privileges have responsibility and all people that is clear about their responsibility has compromise. All this is responsibility and compromise.

Compromise and responsibility not only for me and my family, but also the management team to have responsibility to know that the importance of what we are doing and that at the end of the day we go out, we are temporarily managing this. We don't take anything when we pass away, and we need to do with the sense of responsibility.

KING: How many people work for you?

SLIM: Well, I think now we're around 250,000.

KING: All over?

SLIM: In Latin America, Mexico and Latin America.

KING: How did it all start?

SLIM: Well, when I was very young, maybe 12 years, I began to make investments.

KING: Twelve years old?

SLIM: Yes, maybe a little before. First I opened a check account. I looked at the -- I looked that there was nothing of yield. So I bought some bonds. It was a bond. When I bought this bond it was duplicated in 10 years. I think it was 10 percent.

Then I understand compound interests in those times and then I think at 14 or something like that or 13, I bought stocks. I follow investment, but also my father, he began to make -- we have order with the money. In Mexico, we say you have money for the week to spend.

KING: Allowance?

SLIM: Allowance and he has got to have a small book what was our income and what we're expenses. I think I never need money. My family used to have money when I was born. We have a big house and have all the -- my father, for 1920 he was a really wealthy businessman.

KING: You were born into wealth?

SLIM: Yes.

KING: But you took it way beyond that?

SLIM: Yes.

KING: We'll be back with Carlos Slim, the richest man in the world. Regular guy. Don't go away.


KING: Carlos Slim owns one of the oldest hotels in Mexico, Hotel Geneve. Here's a tour of that hotel.

A little foundation, then we'll get into the background. The empire is in the telecommunications company Telmex, which he acquired in 1990 that's when Mexico began privatizing its national industries.

A decade later, he spun off the cell phone business, American Mobile, and it's one of the largest companies in all of Latin America. He also owns Sunborn, Mexico's major retail outlet and biggest restaurant chain. His interest includes one of Mexico's most important banks, airline, mining company, hotels, construction, insurance companies, a bottling company, cigarette manufacturer, much real estate and on and on and on. Are you always looking to acquire?

SLIM: No. The companies you're telling there -- was '65 when I begin. We are not in the bottles business anymore. We sold the tobacco business also to our partners. We are concentrating, because during these 45 years and depending on the circumstances we were involved, we have the possibility to buy some business.

With the time we were focusing a little more in the -- what we think have the more important potential and development and need more investments and management. Some of these businesses get out of the line we were trying to -- because in '82 there were a big crisis in Mexico and that meant nobody was investing and we invested many, many areas.

We invest in paper. We invest in tire for cars. We invest in autoparts and aluminum and copper commercial. Actually we are focusing, we sold a chemical corporation, a business we bought in '82 also. We're focusing, like I was telling in telecommunication, financing and mining, retail.

KING: Do you have a favorite?

SLIM: That's a good question.

KING: That's why I asked.

SLIM: One that have something to look at. That's my work. Today my work has targets in mainly in all the foundations that are my biggest challenge. At this time of my life my challenge is to, using the foundations and some of the efforts of the companies, try to make changes in Latin America.

But by the profit business I am now focusing in real estate developments, but mainly mining and the other areas of financing and telecommunications. I follow what is happening, but I am not in the operation. I am not following the day-to-day things.

KING: Did your father get to see your success?

SLIM: No. No, my father passed away when I was 13 years old. I was very young. He already knows that I make investments. He knows what I was doing. He was very happy with this. I also find -- he opened a store to make us learn.

His first company was opened in 1911. It was closed, I think, by circumstances in August of '29. He closed the business in August of '29. I think he already know it was coming. Closed the business in '29, bought it in 1940. He tried to teach us commerce.

KING: How many of there were you?

SLIM: Excuse me? KING: Brothers and sisters?

SLIM: Used to be six, three boys and three boys. I am the fifth. Now we are only living an older brother and me. We are the only two now and I have also six children, three boys and three girls.

KING: Do you raise your children the way your father was starting to raise you?

SLIM: Yes.

KING: We'll ask about that. Still ahead, we're also going to take you inside Carlos Slim's home. Don't go away.


KING: Carlos Slim, the richest man in the world, his father immigrated to Mexico from Lebanon, right? Slim is a Lebanese name?

SLIM: Not completely. The origin, the name, to say what it means, where it is coming from, but the name of my father, my grandfather and my great-great grandfather. Before that I don't know.

KING: Did your father marry a Mexican girl?

SLIM: My mother born in Mexico, but was Lebanese in origin. She born 1902 the same year my father arrived to Mexico when he was 14 years old. It was a coincidence that he arrived in 1902 at 14 years and my brother born in 1902 in a state in the north of the country.

KING: Was there early in life a big event that happened to you that turned you from millionaire to billionaire? Was there a major occurrence?

SLIM: I think work and reinvestments. My father used to say that the money that gets out of a company evaporates. That means he was thinking in investment, investment. That is one of the things we do. Other things that we do are in good times we maintain -- we loan like crazy and putting expenses all around or making fancy things.

Then we used to have -- we don't have corporate offices until now. We used to have them in the factories. The offices of the company were in the factories, not in another corporate building. I think that's the way it happened.

And the big things was for us in '82, I wasn't really -- there was a good -- I have cash, I have size and I can buy many things that were racy because everyone was selling and this was a very difficult year. We were in debt crisis in our country.

Also if you remember the interest rate went to 21 percent, the prime rate. The inflation was two digits. Fed pulled in the rate so high that everyone with small debt has problems.

KING: What happened to you? SLIM: No, to the country that has a big dip. The president was already leaving and he nationalized the bank system. It was three months of great prices. Did you follow '83, '84, '85?

KING: It's the hardest thing for someone who has everything is to not give your children everything.

SLIM: When you say everything you're talking about material things?

KING: Yes, in other words the boy comes over, he sees wealth. The little boy says, papa, give me $1,000.

SLIM: When a little boy comes to us for $1,000, you don't educate him well. My children, first of all, the three children sleep in the same bed. Not same bed, in the same room, same bedroom my three boys and also my three girls.

KING: Why?

SLIM: Because I think they need to be each -- they have only a few months, 14 months between each other, 15 months. They have a very tight, very near age and wealth to live together. Not to have his own bed, his own bedroom, his own bathroom. His own everything.

Know how to organize, go to the bathroom, another. When they go with me, three of them, they go in the front, they organize. To find any problem between them, they have many things, indeed, but never something important.

They love each other. That's very important. Each of your sons love each other because the best friend they can have is each other.

KING: Is it hard not to give to them, though?

SLIM: No. When you are convinced what to do and what you need to do, it's not hard to do that, because you know if you are giving something that is bad for them, bad for his happiness is not fair.

KING: We'll talk about happiness in a minute. The richest man in the world, the extraordinary Carlos Slim. We're honored to have him here. Don't two away.


KING: In January, he opened the Samia Museum. Here's a sneak peek of what it's going to look like.

Most people probably imagine the richest man in the world lives in a grand and luxurious mansion. Carlos slim opened the doors of his home to our "LARRY KING LIVE" cameras. His lifestyle may surprise you. Watch.


SLIM: Welcome to Mexico. Welcome to my home. I have near 14 years living here. We have the bedrooms that used to be somewhat downstairs, now they were upstairs. Now all my children are married and this is where we get together.

That's interesting because your bedroom, here together with all the -- that's the place to be. You cannot lose yourself here. I enjoy a lot more. House is not -- we have spaces outside, outdoor.


KING: You lost your wife a little while back.

SLIM: Yes, 11 years ago. She was going to lose me because I was very sick in '97.

KING: Why did you live so modestly?

SLIM: It's not modestly.

KING: You could have the house ten times the size.

SLIM: What would I do with 10 times the size? I would lose myself. Like I say, I prefer the open spaces, the gardens, the breeze. Also when you have a big place, you don't see your family, never. You don't meet each other.

And my wife and me tried to have this family live together -- I don't know how you say that in English. What for do you need the big space? And my -- when I was -- my house was bigger, lot bigger than this. The house my wife also was bigger than our house. I don't think that -- I don't have any desire to have something bigger.

KING: Was your goal money?

SLIM: Excuse me?

KING: Was your goal to make money? Is that your goal?

SLIM: I think it's not a goal. It's not the money the goal. The goal is to make companies grow, develop, be competitive, be in different areas, be very efficient, to have a great human theme inside the companies.

Look for the human development of the people of the companies because you cannot do anything without human capital, without your human team. We were talking about how many people were with us, but there are the managers that are critical to that that has begin working in the company and grow and develop to achieve and success being in high-level management places.

And, now, the goal is well by one side, I think that wealth should be best to create more wealth. That there are -- the fruit of wealth -- the fruit of wealth is income. And it's important to develop the distribution of income. The distribution of income it comes mainly by employment and second, by the money that goes to the government, like taxes and the investment of the governments and the social expenses of the government. And that's the -- a question, I think, is employment but to have public money coming from the taxes we pay for health, education, and other circumstance for social support, but, mainly, the nutrition of the mother pregnant, the health and the education. And that's very important like a basis, like a fundamental.

But at the end of the day, employment, is the most important thing. As much education you have, you are a better alternative, you are a better offer to have different jobs.

KING: You are very involved in the education of the people, I know, because I spoke to all those students. You give scholarships every year, right?

SLIM: Yes.

KING: Is it hard for you to see all the poverty in Mexico?

SLIM: It's hard, but it's -- I am convinced that all this poverty in Mexico and Latin America, like it's happening in China, is the opportunity to grow. Is an opportunity for investment. It's an opportunity for economic activity, and to take out poverty is the best investment any country of people can do -- a person can do in any place, because poverty used to be an ethical issue, used to be justice -- a social justice issue, but now is an economic need.

You need to integrate these people that are marginal and are in poverty. You need to integrate them to the modernity, to the economic, to the market. And that's very important because we have this potential to grow and to invest.

KING: We'll talk about charity and Carlos Slim and art and Carlos Slim after this.


KING: We're back with the extraordinary Carlos Slim. We only have one hour to spend. We would look forward to many more with this enlightened, incredible human being on this planet and what he has brought to himself and to people around him.

How much do you devote to charity?

SLIM: Well, we make it -- not talking about a budget, say, well, this year we will spend 100 dollars or 100 million. We try to find which are the problems that we need to attack and then we put all the money that is necessary.

The foundations we have done donations, like they used (INAUDIBLE) now like six million dollars. But the important thing is the combination of the foundations with the companies and sometimes -- and some programs. And the people that these volunteers to work in many things and we don't put the money in the foundation because the Mexican foundations -- we make no tax deductible --

KING: Not tax deductible? SLIM: No. You can make it by part. But mainly, donations have been not tax deductible that we have done. And -- but when you have the money in a foundation, it can be -- it only be spend in Mexico. They cannot use the money of the foundation outside of Mexico. So, that's why we have not put money there, because we want to do things in all Latin America mainly.

KING: The whole area?

SLIM: Yes, and we have programs. And we put in these programs all that is necessary. Let's say in the surgery -- that we do surgery around the country. We begin with 2,000 in a few years ago, 50 years ago. Now we are doing 120,000.

KING: Surgeries?

SLIM: Surgeries. And we say that what we'll do as much as possible. That's a association with the National Academy of Surgery. The doctors puts his time, the government in the health centers. and we put the tools, the materials and the expenses to move and to travel from the doctors.

KING: What about art? You are a vast collector of art. You're building an extraordinary museum named after your wife. It will open at the end of January. Were you always a collector?

SLIM: Well, not always. My wife was very sensible to art. Very sensible to everything, but especially to art. When we go -- beginning in our honeymoon in '66, we went to Europe and we went to museums and she stayed looking at something. And I say, no, well, participate too, because she was feeling and looking and very deeply at what they were doing.

And then I bought a collection of art -- of Mexican art by -- that was important of colonial art. And after that, I began to look that in Mexico there were not museums with international art. Mainly was Hispanic and colonial art and Mexican art.

Plus, I began to bought art from Europe that was at those times very accessible, not the prices that they have now. And we make the museum. I make the museum, looking for the people -- the Mexicans that cannot travel. They have these kind of art in the country.

We have 16 years with the museum and now we are opening the -- a new one.

KING: And you have some of the great -- you have one of the greatest collection in the world, do you not?

SLIM: We have a good collection, I think. We have a impressionist called masters. We have also many things like (INAUDIBLE) of Mexico. It's a very --

KING: Diversified?

SLIM: Diversified. KING: We'll be back with Carlos Slim. What can we say? Don't go away.


KING: As we've discussed, Carlos has an impressive art collection. Take a look.



KING: We're back with Carlos Slim who also maintains his childhood home. Here's a look inside.


SLIM: Hello, Larry. That's my family home. It has something like 65 years old, maybe a little more. These ceilings, they have 20 years and we never touched a painting or anything.

That's a photo of my father when he was only 32 years old. He already sold the area for living together and for friends, and that's our -- the bedrooms.

My wife and me return. (INAUDIBLE) We prefer this help for you. You stay alone in your room, but when you get out of your room, you get available with your family.

That's my wedding day a few years ago -- like 44 years. This pianola there, that was -- I play with that because you move your feet and you play alone. These library also has a table for pool.

This is me. I am the sister because of the family there. My two older sisters, my two older brothers. We seem today happy here every morning with my children, and sometimes grandchildren come with us also when they are not going to learning to the school.

And I think that's the most important. Family and conversation, living together, enjoying together, getting in touch very often. And I think it's more important that -- having to play where you lost yourself. And, maybe, because my wife and me have a bigger house when we were bachelors.

Sometimes when you don't have anything, you are looking to find things. And when you are looking to have things, you always have for something more and more and more. And you get (INAUDIBLE) no with things. I think that's a wrong way to live.


KING: That house remains special to you.

SLIM: Yes. We've had this house from many years. My mother passed away in '84. And it feels like it was 65 or 70 years ago.

KING: You visit it a lot?

SLIM: Yes, I make sometime lunch there and sometimes I go there. And we make Christmas, also, often there. And, yes, yes, I go there.

KING: Do you need a lot of security? With all that we hear about Mexico and violence and drugs, I mean, wouldn't you be a target?

SLIM: No one in my family have been -- have had problems with that.

KING: None?

SLIM: None of my children and myself. But we move with security, yes. But we can -- I walk to downtown and walk in the streets.

KING: Do you drive a car?

SLIM: I drive a car, yes. You go to concerts and to all these places and you can do your life near normal. Your children go to the school. All the businessman -- most of the businessmen still living in our country and working in our country with our families, and that is very important. That --

KING: Do your children go to public school?

SLIM: No, we go to private school.

KING: You had to do that.

SLIM: No, well, when this basic Mexican education regularly. I was in private school until high school. But then I go to the national university. That's a public school. That's a great college, for me the best, where you not only learn academic issues but also you learn life.

KING: The Carlos Slim is known as the engineer, right?

SLIM: Yes, civil engineer.

KING: We're going to talk to him about baseball, which he is an enormous baseball fan, about life with all of that money, how you can adjust to it, right after this.


KING: Carlos Slim is also a baseball fan. Long time?

SLIM: Yes, when I was a -- very young -- well, not a boy, little boy, they were a great baseball in Mexico.

KING: Mexican league?

SLIM: Mexican league, where there were -- in the forties, there were people from big leagues. There were also the Negro Leagues were playing in Mexico because they were not playing in the US. They were really great players go through Mexico.

KING: You are a Yankee fan though.

SLIM: Yes, can I take my jacket off?

KING: Yes. I have had many thrills in my life. This is one of them, that you would take off your jacket and wear suspenders.

SLIM: No. I admire you a lot. And I want to make it more near to -- with you.

But you were telling me about the Yankees. Yes, I was very little when I saw the movie of Baby Ruth. That was great, this movie of Baby Ruth. Then the other of Lou Gehrig with Gary Cooper. And it was Joe DiMaggio and the radio was telling you about -- and that was the time with the Yankees and the Dodgers make great World Series for many years. Casey Stengel and this time was fantastic

KING: Do you ever want to buy a ball club?

SLIM: No, I prefer to enjoy. I think if you buy it, you will look it like a business and you will not enjoy.

KING: You -- it would probably -- yes, it would become a business.

SLIM: Yes. I prefer to enjoy.

KING: Family is still the most important thing, right?

SLIM: By huge.

KING: By far?

SLIM: By a lot, by far.

KING: So, what motivates -- when you have all you need, when you can buy anything you see, what motivates you? What keeps you going?

SLIM: I think --

KING: You don't ask the price of something, right?

SLIM: Yes, yes, sure. Yes, sure.

KING: You do?

SLIM: Yes, yes, sure. To know what's happening -- it doesn't matter that I am not going to buy. You need to be firm. But to think that happiness comes from buying things is crazy. That happiness come because you have many material issues -- to have 20 cars or 30 cars or the biggest one and 40 watches and -- I think that's not happiness.

That's something that you are -- when you are doing that, is that you have problems. That you are -- I was telling them in the video that this is a (INAUDIBLE). Its' like a boy, a little boy that have a toy and then he get another toy; he won't be happy with toys if you give him toys and toys and toys. The boys will ask for more and more and they will not play with the toy. They will -- that's not the way to -- the way to see life.

But also I think that in professional area and in business, like a businessman, family is not an obstacle; it's a support. When people think that you go for family or for business, or for family or to be a doctor, or to family or be a something, I don't think that they are incompatible. I think they are very complimentary and supportive.

KING: We'll have our remaining all too few moments with Carlos Slim following this.


KING: We're back with Carlos Slim. We have a few minutes left. We know one of your principal business is telecommunication. What's the future? Where is it all going? Television, telephones, Internet, where is it all going?

SLIM: Interesting question. Very good question. I think that we moved many years ago from the horse and the steamboat. Before the steamboat, from the horse and the (INAUDIBLE) first to the steamboat and then to the sound -- to the speed of light, but with telecommunications. And the speed of sound with the -- with the big -- the fast planes.

And that's changed completely the world. And this change came with a lot of technology. I think telecommunications is like the nervous system of the new society, the new civilization. And what we are looking is that people get connected, that you can do a lot of things, not only because of telecommunications, but it came together with the development of the computer that is a (INAUDIBLEE) for the brain-set, for the head.

I think that we are living a great, new society, a very important and generous -- I will say generous and brutal society, where the development and the economy is sustained by the welfare of the others.

KING: Where is it all going though? I mean, are you still investing in telecommunications?

SLIM: Sure, sure, sure. Yes, yes, yes. This year we will invest. Next year will we invest 8.3 billion dollars.

KING: In telecommunications?

SLIM: In telecommunications. Only in telecommunications because technology grow very fast. You need to be ahead. You need to be giving the best thing. And the good thing is that the prices are going down. We are very proud that the mobile and cellular service, we have a penetration like in Latin America of 90 percent. That's great, 90 percent penetration. It's near the same that US.

But now we need to do that in broadband.

KING: You loaned the New York Times quite a bit of money. Do you still have faith in newspapers?

SLIM: I think we need to make a difference between news and papers. I think paper is the tool, the way, the vehicle. And news is the contained. I think that it will be very important everyday more to give the news and the contain through electronic means, like I was telling about entertainment and I was telling about --

KING: But we'll always need papers?

SLIM: I shouldn't say yet, because I use paper. For me, it's difficult not to. But I think in the future, electronic will grow extraordinarily. Not in the future, it's growing is extraordinary. And every time will be bigger. And the piece of the chair of the paper will be smaller in the world.

KING: I hope we can do this again.

SLIM: Whenever you like. I love to be with you.

KING: And I look forward to coming to see the opening of the new museum in Mexico in January.

SLIM: We will be honored that you will be there.

KING: Carlos Slim. Al Pacino is here Monday night. Now, "AC 360.