There have been reports that a Mexican of Lebanese decent had dethroned Bill Gates for some time now, but last week, Forbes Magazine made it official: Carlos Sleem Helu was now the wealthiest person on Earth with an estimated fortune of 53.5 Billion USD.
However, few of us know who this telecom magnate really is, how exactly is he Lebanese and where his fortune came from. So, I present to you Mr. Sleem
My first encounter with Sleem’s legacy was in 2007 during a camp in the southern part of Lebanon. We had walked from Mokhtara and ended up in Jezzine. We then hitchhiked with a man from neighboring Bkessine, which showed us Grandpa Sleem’s lands, which were a pretty big mansion with several steppes above it and below it, stretching almost all the way from the peak of the mountain where it stood, to the bottom of the valley below. At the time, the local man had told us Mr. Sleem made his fortune from ‘assembling cars’.
Less than a week after he dethroned Microsoft’s founder, Sleem arrived in Lebanon and has already toured the three presidents, the Patriarch and several other meetings with figures of the Lebanese economic and social scene. He is scheduled to give a lecture in AUB on Wednesday the 17th of March, so researching this man was a must now.
Carlos Sleem along with several big international investors acquired telecommunications companies Telmex and Telnor from the Mexican government in the 1990s. Today, Telmex operates 90% of Mexican landlines and Telcel (the mobile telecom company he also heads) controls some 80% of Mexico’s cellular numbers. Sleem’s telecom empire also stretches over many parts of South America, with an estimated number of over 100 million subscribers.
Sleem is an engineer by university degree, and his net worth was some 40 million USD by his mid-20s. The Sleem Helu family of 6 children and Lebanese immigrant parents was well-off, with them having ties to the first Arabic journal published in Mexico and the dried-food label ‘Eastern Star’.
In recent years, as his wealth has skyrocketed, Sleem has bought several companies involved in different industries, such as water facilities across Latin America, further expanding his multi-billion dollar empire.
He has received quite a lot of medals, awards, and other acknowledgements and decorations (most recently from the Lebanese president last weekend) He also heads and chairs countless companies and boards and councils, although the 70-year-old leaves most of the day-to-day management to his sons and sons-in-law.
This brief post should do till after the lecture, which the blog will definitely review and highlight as well as add more detail to this fascinating man’s biography and plans for the future.