Carlos Slim was born in 1940, in Mexico City, Mexico. His parents, Julián Slim Haddad and Linda Helú Atta were both Maronite Catholics of Lebanese descent. Carlos’ father, born Khalil Salim Haddad Aglamaz, was sent to Mexico in 1902 to avoid being drafted into the Ottoman Army. After arriving in Mexico, Carlos’s father changed his name to Julián Slim Haddad.
In a community devoted to commerce, Julian Slim was a natural, opening a dry goods store in 1911, which grew to offer more than USD 100,000 worth of merchandise just 10 years later. With proceeds from the store, he would go on to buy prime real estate in Mexico City for a pittance during the 1910–1917 Mexican Revolution. His savvy investments in real estate, along with his continued success as both a retailer and a wholesaler made Julián a rich man, with a net worth of more than 1 million Pesos.
From a young age, Carlos took an interest in his father’s business. And his father happily obliged with business lessons about management, reading financial statements and keeping accurate financial records.
In 1953, when Carlos was only 13 years old, his father died. After his father’s death, the young man continued to work for his late father’s company, which would ultimately be passed on to him. When Slim graduated high school, he went on to the National Autonomous University of Mexico, where he studied civil engineering while teaching algebra and linear programming.
While studying civil engineering, Slim also took an interest in economics, taking a series of courses on the subject in Chile after he graduated in 1961. He went into finance shortly afterward, working long, grueling days as a stock trader in Mexico City.
By 1965, at the age of 25, his trading had netted him roughly USD 400,000, more than USD 3.5 million in present dollars. He used the money to open his own brokerage firm, called Inversora Bursátil. In addition, he also began laying the financial groundwork for Grupo Carso. In 1965 he also bought Jarritos del Sur.
In 1982, the Mexican economy contracted rapidly. As many banks were struggling and foreign investors were cutting back on investing and scurrying, Slim began investing heavily and bought many flagship companies at depressed valuations. Buying troubled assets at depressed prices to resell them later at an attractive price is a business strategy that Slim has executed throughout his career.