[T]he momentous scale is not the most galling aspect of Mr. Slim’s riches. There’s the issue of theft.Now -- New York Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr writing about Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim in Time magazine's recent 2009 annual "World's Most Influential People" issue:
Like many a robber baron -- or Russian oligarch, or Enron executive -- Mr. Slim calls to mind the words of Honoré de Balzac: "Behind every great fortune there is a crime." Mr. Slim’s sin, if not technically criminal, is like that of Rockefeller, the sin of the monopolist.
In 1990, the government of President Carlos Salinas de Gortari sold his friend Mr. Slim the Mexican national phone company, Telmex, along with a de facto commitment to maintain its monopoly for years. Then it awarded Telmex the only nationwide cellphone license.
When competitors were eventually allowed in, Telmex kept them at bay with some rather creative gambits, like getting a judge to issue an arrest warrant for the top lawyer of a competitor. Today, it still has a 90 percent share of Mexico’s landline phone service and controls almost three-quarters of the cellphone market.
Monopolies tend to generate a ton of money. Mr. Slim, a shrewd investor, deployed it well -- buying up hundreds of Mexican companies and entering wireless markets across Latin America. It’s hard for a Mexican to spend a day without handing him some money.
But Mexico has paid, dearly. In 2005, there were fewer than 20 fixed telephone lines for every 100 Mexicans, and less than half had cellphones. Just 9 percent of households had Internet access. Mexicans pay way above average for all these services.
I recently had the great pleasure of meeting Carlos Slim. . . Carlos, a very shrewd businessman with an appreciation for great brands, showed a deep understanding of the role that news, information and education play in our interconnected global society.Why -- Simple: "the Times got a bailout" from Slim. A $250 million loan that entitles him to 17 percent of the company's (voting-subordinated) common stock.
What also became apparent is that for Carlos, insight and understanding are catalysts for action and accomplishment. This speaks to why Carlos has funded extensive public-health education programs and why he's helped thousands of students throughout Latin America get their own laptops and learn more about digital technology.
Carlos, 69, believes that as people know more, they have a far better opportunity to change and improve their lives. As he spoke at our meeting, he conveyed the quiet but fierce confidence that has enabled him to have a profound and lasting effect on millions of individuals in Mexico and neighboring countries. Carlos knows very well how much one person with courage, determination and vision can achieve.
Question -- In the transformation from "robber baron" to "shrewd businessman," how does "media objectivity" morph?
Answer -- Same way socialized healthcare is about to be pushed by GE/NBC.
(via TimesWatch, Doug Ross)