The New York Times' Fatboy, Slim


For those who either resent or revere the New York Times, news that Mexican tycoon Carlos Slim is injecting $250 million into the suddenly troubled newspaper giant is cause for…interest. The most illuminating piece I've read about Slim comes from former Times editorial writer, former boss of me, and current (I think!) Mexican, Andres Martinez. Sample:

Let's face it. The New York Times would never strike a deal with a U.S. tycoon of a similar profile, for fear of triggering real or apparent conflicts between the newspaper's coverage and the investor's interests. Not that you could ever find such a U.S. tycoon: The conglomerate of Slim-controlled telecom, banking, tobacco, retailing, insurance, construction, and other interests has been estimated to add up to 7 percent of Mexico's GDP. Even in his heyday, John D. Rockefeller accounted for only about 2 percent of the U.S. economy. As Forbes put it in its 2007 ranking of billionaires, Bill Gates or Warren Buffett would have to be worth $784 billion to have a similar share of U.S. wealth as Mr. Slim has of Mexico's wealth. […]

[T]he scale of Slim's fortune, and the extent to which it was built on a government-sanctioned monopoly, is scandalously unique. This Wall Street Journal profile provides the background on how Slim leveraged his personal ties to then-President Carlos Salinas de Gortari (and his financial backing of the ruling party) not only to prevail as a bidder in the early 1990s privatization of Mexico's telephone monopoly but to ensure that Telmex remained a poorly regulated monopoly long after its privatization. Slim's companies still control more than 90 percent of all landlines in Mexico and more than 70 percent of all wireless contracts. Mexico's respected independent central banker, Guillermo Ortiz, has pointed to the lack of meaningful competition in Mexico, especially in telecom, as one of the factors retarding the nation's economic development.


I can assure you that Slim's investment will be a factor, even if unspoken, in editorial decision-making henceforth at the Times.

Whole thing here. Speaking of Slate and media scrutiny, don't miss Jack Shafer's mean little piece on "Chris Matthews' never-ending inaugural jib-jabbery."