The Syrians took it. (2nd last paragraph)

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The Syrians took it. (2nd last paragraph)

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World's third richest man has roots in South Lebanon
By Osama Habib
Daily Star staff
Tuesday, March 27, 2007

BEIRUT: It is not uncommon for a Lebanese to join the club of the rich and famous. One of the first names that come to mind is late former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, who made his huge fortune in Saudi Arabia in construction and contracting.

But many Lebanese probably felt very proud when the prestigious Forbes magazine named Carlos Slim Helu as the third richest man in the world right after Bill Gates and Warren Buffet.

Slim Helu, whose wealth is estimated to be more than $49 billion, is one of the most powerful figures in Mexico and probably South America.

The financial success that Slim Helu has achieved has been from finding undervalued companies and making them profitable. Telefonos de Mexico (Telmex) was acquired during a privatization drive in 1990 by the Mexican government. He was criticized for raising rates soon after purchasing the business, but he went on to improve phone service in Mexico with the company offering local and long-distance calls, mobile phone services, Internet services, and a telephone directory.

Slim Helu was once quoted as saying that "it's not a question of arriving and putting in a whole new administration, but instead, arriving and 'compacting' things as much as possible, reducing management layers. We want as few management layers as possible, so that executives are very close to the operations. We also don't believe in having big corporate infrastructures."

The news media in the West regularly give extensive coverage of Slim Helu's business deals. However, very few people know about his family background in Lebanon or even the name of the village in which his father was born.

Slim Helu's father, Julian Slim Haddad Aglamaz was born in Jezzine, a quite town in the South, although the year of his birth is still a mystery.

The head of Jezzine's municipality, Saeed Abu Akl, told The Daily Star that Slim Helu's father fled to Mexico in 1902 to escape Ottoman rule.

The father established a dry goods store called La Estrella del Orient (Star of the Orient) in 1911, and brought up some prime real estate in the city center, according to some news media in Mexico. He married the daughter of a rich Mexican merchant and had six children, of whom Carlos was the youngest.

Abu Akl said neither the municipality nor the mayor of Jezzine have a record on Slim helu's' father.

"Some of the elders said that Julian visited Lebanon in 1938 to baptize Carlos, who was four at the time, and his elder brother at Mar Maroun Church in Jezzine." Abu Akl said. "Julian made the last trip to Lebanon in 1941."

"It seems that most of Carlos' relatives emigrated to Mexico and South America. He has one of his cousins who visits Jezzine from time to time."

Abu Akl said that Slim Helu tried to send aid to Jezzine through Syria during the summer 2006 war, but "it seems that something went wrong in Syria and the aid shipment never arrived here."

Abu Akl said that many Lebanese business figures tried to persuade Slim Helu to visit his ancestral homeland, but "he did not show any enthusiasm to come to Lebanon."
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