Carlos Slim Helú

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Carlos Slim Helú was on the Board of Directors of Philip Morris International (PMI) from 2008, until his retirement from the Board in May 2015.[1]

Before 2008, Slim was on the Board of Altria, PMI’s former parent company.[2]

"Mexico’s Richest Man"

In 2007, Forbes magazine named Slim “Mexico’s Richest Man", with his fortune amassed through telecom businesses, banking, energy and tobacco.[3]

Slim's company, Carso Group, held a majority stake of 50.1% in Mexico’s largest tobacco company, Cigarros la Tabacalera Mexicana (Cigatam) until 2007, when the other majority stakeholder, Philip Morris Mexico, bought an additional 30% shares from Carso Group.[4] As a result of this buy-out, Philip Morris ended up owning 79.9% of the Mexican tobacco company and Slim stayed on as ‘advisor of Philip Morris Mexico’.[5]

Conflict of Interest: Carlos Slim Health Institute and Philanthropy

In September 2007, Slim set up health charity Carlos Slim Health Institute (CSHI) “to help solving the principle health issues afflicting Latin American most vulnerable population”.[6]

Slim’s health charity's budget was US$500 million to improve the health of Latin Americans, in particular focusing on “globalisation and non-communicable diseases.[4][7]

At the time, Slim was still earning tobacco money via his advisory role at Philip Morris Mexico, and later, PMI board membership.

Tobacco control expert Simon Chapman criticised the charity in 2008 for deriving its funding from tobacco money, and highlighted that its founder was still engaged with the tobacco industry, arguing it was in conflict with the principles of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.[4] Former Mexican Health Minister and then CSHI’s President, Julio Frenk, disputed the charges, stating that “No [CSHI] funds whatsoever derive from any financial or industrial interests in the tobacco industry”.[7]

A 2010 peer-reviewed study into Slim’s financial links with tobacco companies dismissed Frenk’s assertions and demonstrated that “the profits, power and prestige of Slim, his family and GC [his company] are substantially derived from selling cigarettes; their ongoing engagement in this business suggests their continued acceptance of this activity as unproblematic.”.[7] The study authors argued that the financial link with tobacco created a conflict between CSHI’s agenda to shape Latin America’s health policy and the sale of a product that is the biggest cause of premature mortality and morbidity worldwide.[7]

To further understand how tobacco philanthropy can cause problematic conflict of interests, and can be used by the tobacco industry as part of its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) efforts to rehabilitate its corporate image, see our page on CSR Strategy.

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Notes

  1. Business Wire, Philip Morris International (PMI) Declares Regular Quarterly Dividend of $1.00 Per Share; Announces Retirement from the Board of Directors, 11 March 2015, accessed July 2017
  2. Billionaire Carlos Slim to retire from Philip Morris, CNBC , 11 March 2015, accessed July 2017
  3. H. Coster, Mexico’s Richest Man, Forbes, 16 March 2007, accessed July 2017
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 S. Chapman, International tobacco control should repudiate Jekyll and Hyde health philanthropy, Tobacco Control 2008; 17:1
  5. Philip Morris International, Philip Morris International announces agreement in principle to acquire additional 30% stake in Mexican tobacco business from Grupo Carso, Press release, 17 July 2007, accessed July 2017
  6. Carlos Slim Health Institute, About Us, CSHI website, undated, accessed July 2017
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 T. Burch, N. Wander, J. Collin, Uneasy money: the Instituto Carlos Slim de la Salud, tobacco philanthropy and conflict of interest in global health, Tobacco Control 2010; 19(6):e1-e9