By: ISTRA PACHECO
Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim is calling his $250 million investment in The New York Times a keen business move and not a foray into journalism.
His spokesman Arturo Elias Ayub said Thursday that the controversial tycoon was not interested in meddling in the world-renowned newspaper’s coverage, as some critics have asserted since the Times announced the deal Monday. Slim has become the world’s second-richest man in large part by turning around troubled businesses.
“We consider any investment that makes sense financially, be it a newspaper … a bank,” Ayub told reporters at a news conference to announce that Slim’s foundation would invest more than $2 million in cultural events in Mexico this year.
Slim agreed to give New York Times Co. a $250 million infusion at a hefty interest rate of 14 percent.
Slim gets no representation on the Times’ board and no special voting rights. When he exercises warrants that are included in the deal, he would own up to 17 percent of the company’s common stock. The Ochs-Sulzberger family owns about 19 percent of the company but controls it through a special class of supervoting shares.
Ayub also suggested Slim may make more investments in the recession-hit companies in the future, without naming specific businesses or sectors.
In the past year, Slim upped his stakes in Saks Fifth Avenue, and his Inbursa brokerage bought at least $150 million of Citigroup’s sinking shares.
Slim got his start in the cigarette business and made it big in 1990, taking control of Mexico’s state-owned telephone monopoly. Telefonos de Mexico SA, or Telmex, still operates more than 90 percent of the nation’s fixed-line phone services, while his America Movil SAB is Latin America’s largest mobile phone service provider.
Critics say Slim, 68, runs ruthless monopolies that illegally block competitors.