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Viewing cable 08MEXICO2187, WHO ARE MEXICO'S WEALTHIEST BUSINESS LEADERS? 



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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08MEXICO2187 2008-07-16 20:08 2011-02-14 12:12 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Mexico
Appears in these articles:
http://wikileaks.jornada.com.mx/notas/multimillonarios-mexicanos-por-privatizacion-de-empresas-publicas
VZCZCXRO9189
PP RUEHCD RUEHGD RUEHHO RUEHMC RUEHNG RUEHNL RUEHRD RUEHRS RUEHTM
DE RUEHME #2187/01 1982012
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 162012Z JUL 08
FM AMEMBASSY MEXICO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2588
INFO RUEHXC/ALL US CONSULATES IN MEXICO COLLECTIVE
RUEHC/DEPT OF LABOR WASHINGTON DC
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC
RHMFISS/CDR USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL
RHMFISS/CDR USNORTHCOM
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHINGTON DC
RHMFISS/DEPT OF ENERGY WASHINGTON DC
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHINGTON DC


C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 05 MEXICO 002187 



SIPDIS 



STATE FOR A/S SHANNON 

STATE FOR WHA/MEX, WHA/EPSC, EB/IFD/OMA, AND DRL/AWH
STATE FOR EB/ESC MCMANUS AND IZZO 

USDOC FOR 4320/ITA/MAC/WH/ONAFTA/GERI WORD 

USDOC FOR ITS/TD/ENERGY DIVISION 
TREASURY FOR IA (RACHEL JARPE, LUYEN TRAN) 
DOE FOR INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS KDEUTSCH, ALOCKWOOD, GWARD 
NSC FOR RICHARD MILES, DAN FISK 
STATE PASS TO USTR (EISSENSTAT/MELLE) 

STATE PASS TO FEDERAL RESERVE (BORA DURDU) 



E.O. 12958: 
DECL: 04/05/2011 

TAGS: ECON EINV MX

SUBJECT: WHO ARE MEXICO'S WEALTHIEST BUSINESS LEADERS? 



REF: A. MONTERREY 101 
B. 06 MEXICO 6413 
C. 08 MEXICO 1840 
D. 07 MEXICO 6249 



Classified By: Classified by Acting Econ M/C Laura Kirkconnell for reas 
ons 1.5 (b) and (d.) 



1. (SBU) Summary: Mexico, a country where roughly 40% of the 
population lives in poverty, has 10 people on FORBES 
Magazine's 2008 list of the world's billionaires. While 
these individuals have made important contributions to 
society via the expansion of services to marginalized areas, 
job creation, and charitable donations, this concentration of 
wealth and economic power hinders Mexico's ability to realize 
more and deeper levels of competition in key industries. 
This telegram spells out who these individuals are, how they 
got where they are, and how this concentration of wealth 
affects Mexico. End Summary. 



------------------------------------ 

Mexico's Wealthiest Business Leaders 

------------------------------------ 



2. (SBU) A number of prominent families control a significant 
amount of wealth in Mexico. The net wealth of the ten 
richest people in Mexico -- a country where more than 40% of 
the population lives in poverty -- represents roughly 10% of 
the country's GDP. To facilitate USG understanding of what 
analysts are referring to when they talk about Mexico's 
wealthiest business leaders, Post is providing the following 
list, which draws from FORBES Magazine's 2008 list of the 
world's billionaires. This list is by no means exhaustive. 



Carlos SLIM Helu and family 

------------------------ 


3. (SBU) In March 2008, FORBES ranked telecom tycoon Carlos 
SLIM as the second-richest person in the world, behind Warren 
Buffet and ahead of Bill Gates. His net worth of $60 billion 
dollars is roughly equivalent to 6% of Mexico's GDP. This is 
up from $13.8 billion dollars in 2004, when he ranked number 
17. SLIM made it into the big leagues in 1990 when he led a 
group of investors in buying Telmex from the GOM in a public 
tender during the presidency of Carlos Salinas. Telmex now 
controls nine of every ten landlines in the country, while 
SLIM-controlled America Movil via its subsidiary Telcel has 
73% of Mexico's cellular phone market. 



4. (U) SLIM's business empire extends beyond 
telecommunications. He has stakes in an airline, a bank, a 
construction company, department stores (including Sanborns), 
restaurants, music outlets, and he sells insurance, auto 
parts, and ceramic tiles. He is developing a business 
presence throughout Latin America. SLIM's holding company, 
Grupo Carso, has stepped up its charitable donations in 
recent years. 



Alberto Bailleres and family 

------------------------- 


5. (U) Alberto Bailleres owns a holding company called Grupo 
Bal, which controls a large number of businesses, including 
the huge metallurgical company Industrias Penoles; the luxury 
department store Palacio de Hierro; and other companies 
related to insurance, financial services, and agriculture. 
His father founded ITAM, one of Mexico's top economic 
universities. Bailleres' net worth is $9.8 billion dollars. 



German Larrea Mota-Velasco and family 

---------------------------------- 


6. (U) German Larrea Mota-Velasco, whose net worth is $7.3 
billion, is the CEO of mining company Grupo Mexico -- the 
world's third-largest copper producer. He also has a 
transportation business that includes the country's biggest 
railroad. He sits on the boards of Grupo Banamex, Grupo 

MEXICO 00002187 002 OF 005 


Bursatil Mexicano, Grupo Televisa, and Seguros Comercial 
America. 



Ricardo Salinas Pliego and family 

------------------------------ 


7. (U) With a net worth of $6.3 billion, Salinas took over 
his family's discount retailer, Grupo Elektra, in 1987. He 
also launched TV Azteca, which is now Mexico's second-largest 
television network; mobile carrier Unefon; and Banco Azteca, 
a bank run out of Elektra stores that serves nearly 15 
million mostly low-income clients. 



Jeronimo Arango 

-------------- 


8. (U) Jeronimo Arango, whose net worth is $4.3 billion, is 
cofounder of the Bodega Aurrera supermarket chain. In 
addition to supermarkets, his family's company, Grupo Cifra, 
has restaurants and fashion stores. Cifra partnered with 
Wal-Mart in the early 1990s, but was later bought out by 
Wal-Mart, which became Wal-Mart de Mexico. Arango cashed out 
for more than $2 billion dollars, and kept some of the 
company's stock. 



Isaac Saba Raffoul and family 

-------------------------- 


9. (U) Saba runs Grupo Casa Saba, which markets health, 
pharmaceutical, and beauty products throughout Mexico. Saba 
has a joint venture with Telemundo to produce 
Spanish-language soap operas in the U.S. and Latin America. 
He tried to get a Mexican broadcasting license in 2006, but 
Televisa and TV Azteca so far have managed to prevent his 
full entry into the market. His net worth is $2.1 billion. 



Roberto Hernandez and family 

------------------------- 


10. (U) Worth $1.7 billion, Hernandez was CEO of Banamex when 
the bank sold out to Citigroup in 2001 -- a deal that gave 
him almost $2 billion dollars. He owns resorts on the 
Yucatan Peninsula. 



Emilio Azcarraga Jean and family 

----------------------------- 


11. (U) Emilio Azcarraga Jean is Grupo Televisa's chairman 
and the son of an entrepreneur who built the company from a 
string of radio stations into a huge conglomerate. Televisa 
owns Mexico's two main cable television and satellite 
providers (Cablevision and Sky). Azcarraga was handed a 
legal setback last year when the Supreme Court struck down 
provisions of a radio and television law designed to protect 
Televisa from new competition. He is on the boards of 
Telmex, Univision, and Banamex. His net worth is $1.6 
billion. 



Alfredo Harp Helu and family 

------------------------- 


12. (U) Worth $1.6 billion, Harp is a beneficiary of 
Citigroup's buyout of Banamex. He owns the country's 
second-largest telephone company (Avantel) and the Mexico 
City Red Devils baseball team. He is an active 
philanthropist and Carlos SLIM's cousin. 



Lorenzo Zambrano and family 

------------------------ 


13. (U) Mexico's tenth-richest man is Lorenzo Zambrano, the 
head of cement giant Cemex. Zambrano, who inherited the 
company from his grandfather, has turned the company into one 
of the world's largest cement makers (Ref A). He also owns 
part of the telecom company Axtel, and sits on the boards of 
several large Mexican businesses. 



--------------------------- 

How They Got Where They Are 

--------------------------- 


MEXICO 00002187 003 OF 005 




14. (SBU) It is difficult to make generalizations about how 
these individuals accumulated their wealth. While most of 
them inherited their wealth, others are largely self made. 
And while some in this group have embraced the need for 
transparency and modern business practices, others prefer 
their privacy and more traditional ways of doing business. 
That said, some of these individuals clearly took advantage 
of shortcomings in Mexican institutions and their 
relationships with important political figures to expand 
their wealth. Several of the business dynasties that these 
individuals own took off in the 1990s, when then-President 
Carlos Salinas de Gortari (PRI) began dismantling Mexico's 
centralized economy. Salinas sold off more than 1,000 
state-run companies from metal foundries to railroads. 
Unfortunately, in some cases, these privatizations ended up 
creating private-sector monopolies -- benefiting savvy 
businessmen and politicians while leaving the average Mexican 
out in the cold. 



15. (SBU) A classic example of this is Telmex's 
privatization. When SLIM and his partners purchased Telmex 
in 1990, the government gave them extremely favorable terms. 
Not only did the GOM sell the Telmex monopoly intact, it 
barred competition during the first six years 
post-privatization. While countries like the U.S. initially 
barred local "baby bell" carriers from offering long-distance 
and cellular service in their same area, Telmex got to do all 
of this at once, and across the entire country. Indeed, it 
won the only nationwide cellular-telephone concession, while 
rivals had to settle for concessions that were limited to 
certain regions. When competition was allowed in long 
distance, foreign carriers were limited to a minority stake 
in the fixed-line business. Similarly, Ricardo Salinas 
acquired the state-owned Imevision television network via 
auction in 1993, converting it into TV Azteca. 



-------------------------- 

The Downsides of Dominance 
-------------------------- 



16. (SBU) The negative aspects of this concentration of 
wealth and economic power cannot be overlooked because many 
of these individuals control the monopolies and oligopolies 
that hold back economic growth. SLIM, Salinas, and others 
have used their influence to sway economic policy and work 
the system to further their business interests and hinder 
their competitors. A World Bank report found that 
billionaire-controlled companies in Mexico are more likely to 
be involved in monopolistic practices and win amparos, or 
judicial stays, which allow them to delay regulatory rulings 
against them while they mire the process in appeals. The 
result is that SLIM still dominates the telecom market; GE, 
NBC and others are unable to break into the broadcasting 
market; and the Federal Competition Commission (Cofeco) 
remains unable to impose significant penalties on 
anti-competitive conduct. It is worth noting that even when 
Cofeco applies a penalty and wins the inevitable court appeal 
filed by the defendant, it cannot always force the offending 
party to pay its (minimal) fine due to its weak enforcement 
mechanisms and the ability of these powerful business 
conglomerates to manipulate the judicial system. 



17. (C) Another tactic these individuals (and others) use to 
hamper their competition is criminalizing investment 
disputes. (Note: The misuse of the judicial system is 
employed by Mexican companies of all sizes to resolve 
disputes. It reflects weaknesses in the legal system that 
companies exploit, and is one of the reasons judicial reform 
is an important issue in Mexico. End Note.) Salina's TV 
Azteca, for example, excels at this tactic. The most recent 
dispute brought to the attention of Post -- between TV Azteca 
and a major U.S. insurance company -- was based on the 
insurance company's refusal to make an insurance 
reimbursement to TV Azteca. The insurance company believed 

MEXICO 00002187 004 OF 005 


that under the terms of its contract with TV Azteca, it had 
no obligation to pay the settlement, valued at approximately 
USD 18 million. While the dispute was being heard in 
commercial court, the company's Director General and legal 
counselor were arrested without warning and thrown in jail. 
Company executives were told by TV Azteca that the Director 
General would be charged with criminal fraud unless the 
settlement was paid. Fearing for the health of the Director 
General, who required medical care not readily available in 
prison, the U.S. insurance company appealed to the judge to 
release the Director General on health grounds. The judge, 
who unsubstantiated rumors suggest may have accepted a bribe 
of over a million USD on this case, refused to release the 
Director General, and threatened to keep him in jail for the 
duration of the weekend. Ultimately, the insurance company 
paid USD 18 million as a settlement to have the Director 
General released. 



------------------------------------- 

Calderon's Approach: Little by Little 

------------------------------------- 



18. (SBU) President Calderon has pledged publicly to foster 
competition in the local economy since his campaign. Senior 
administration officials, however, have told Emboffs that 
they do not want to open too many reform fronts at one time 
-- suggesting that they understand the importance of 
increasing competition in the local economy but know that 
they have to be realistic when going up against influential 
powerbrokers like Carlos SLIM. This may be particularly true 
as the mid-term election draws near, given that these 
economic giants often help finance campaign costs, and in the 
case of Televisa and TV Azteca, control television coverage 
of Mexican politics. Instead, Calderon has given priority to 
other economic reforms (tax, pension, energy), and moved 
quietly (and very slowly) on competition reform. 



19. (SBU) The limited progress we have seen has been on the 
telecommunications front. SLIM has made known his desire 
that Telmex be allowed entry into the television market to 
complete their "triple play" -- telephone, internet and 
television -- offering. In exchange for changing Telmex's 
concession, the administration is requiring Telmex to comply 
with number portability and interconnection requirements -- 
thus helping to foster increased competition in the sector. 
The administration also has announced its intention to 
auction a large amount of spectrum that might be used by 
existing mobile telecommunications companies or new entrants 
to provide broadband telephony services to the Mexican 
consumer. 



------- 

Comment 

------- 



20. (SBU) The Mexican government has long been called on to 
address monopolistic practices in the both the public and 
private sector. Critics had hoped that the situation would 
improve when the National Action Party (PAN) assumed power 
from the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) in 2000, but 
progress has been minimal. The current administration's 
strategy of slowly chipping away at the problem is better 
than no progress at all, but until it deals with the "Robber 
Barons" of its time, progress will continue to be limited. 



21. (SBU) Of course, these economic powerhouses are not the 
only obstacle to improving competition in the Mexican 
economy. Cofeco needs to be strengthened so it can enforce 
deterrent penalties on anti-competitive conduct. A bill that 
would help make progress on this front is awaiting 
congressional approval, but some PRI and PAN legislators have 
been blocking it (Refs C and D). Equally important, Mexican 
consumers need to stand up for their rights and press for 
legal changes to give them a more powerful voice. Excessive 

MEXICO 00002187 005 OF 005 


regulations and obstacles to opening new businesses have 
hindered the advancement of new entrepreneurs, as has 
Mexico's underdeveloped private equity industry. Taming 
widespread corruption and strengthening the judicial system 
would also help promote competition. With regard to the 
judiciary, the Embassy is working with Cofeco on a series of 
seminars and exchanges between U.S. and Mexican judges and 
competition officials designed to raise awareness of the 
importance of robust competition and compare experiences in 
enforcing our respective competition laws. Until the Mexican 
government, congress, judiciary, and consumers work together 
to address these issues, a lack of competition will continue 
to be a stumbling block in Mexico's drive to improve the 
economy's productivity, innovation, and competitiveness. 
Visit Mexico City's Classified Web Site at 
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/wha/mexicocity and the North American 
Partnership Blog at http://www.intelink.gov/communities/state/nap / 
GARZA