Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim's $127 million investment in the New York Times Company made headlines this morning, but left unremarked upon, including by the Times itself, are the murkier aspects of how Slim made his fortune. Yes, Slim acquired control of telephone monopoly Telmex in 1990 when it privatized in part by smartly partnering with Southwestern Bell and France Telecom. It's also true he has strongly denied there was anything untoward about the $1.7 billion purchase price, even though the company just 14 years later was valued at $37 billion. But Slim's financial support for the ruling PRI party, including a $25 million donation at a notorious 1993 fundraising dinner, was at the very least leveraged in an unseemly manner elsewhere. Slim went on to use his "influence over the government" to fight off the entry of competing phone companies into the impoverished Mexican market — that according to the Times itself in 2006. And what of the billionaire as a "decent philanthropist"?
The Times is surely less than thrilled by the presence of a vulture investor like Slim. The origins of his money should make the newspaper even more queasy.