Carlos Slim loves a good deal. In the past week, the Mexican mogul and world's richest man has purchased over a million shares of The New York Times, increasing his share in the company from 6.9 to 7.5 percent according to regulatory filings released Wednesday. "We just think the price of the stock is in a good point to buy" Slim's spokesman and son-in-law Arturo Elias Ayub told The Wall Street Journal.
We can't help but wonder: with so many good deals to choose from in this market downturn, why is Slim so interested in The Times? We've compiled (and partially debunked) some competing theories.
FAIRLY LIKELY: Carlos Slim thinks The New York Times is going to win the digital media game.
This makes sense because Slim himself has said so. In a conversation with Bloomberg TV this year, he explained his confidence quite directly, "We think it’s a great brand, a great company, and we wait for movement--not only The New York Times, but in general from paper to electronic means." Slim's vote of confidence is also tremendously powerful. Times shares were trading 4.19 percent up with Wednesday's announcement.
SORT OF LIKELY: The New York Times's stock shows financial promise.
Since the introduction of its paywall, The Times is on better financial footing than it was a year ago, but they're not out of the woods yet. Flush with the new source of revenue the paper was able to pay back a $250 million loan (plus 14 percent interest) that Slim had granted then in 2009, when he first bought into the company. The fact that the payment came three and a half years early also boosted confidence. As Dan Gillmor explains at The Guardian, the strategy is working but they have to stick to it. "It will be good for journalism, not just The New York Times's long-suffering shareholders, if the organisation can make a long-term go of its paywall," writes Gillmor. "I want to pay for good work, and, in this case, I'm glad to do so."
NOT VERY LIKELY: Carlos Slim wants to be a worldwide media mogul just like next Rupert Murdoch.
First of all, with an estimated net worth of $74 billion, Slim is much much richer than Murdoch, whose fortune amounts to just $7.6 billion by Forbes's estimate. Unlike Murdoch's concentrated media holdings, Slim's fortune is famously diverse with heavy investments in everything from the Jarritos soda pop company to Mexico's largest telecom company. (Slim is sticking to this strategy--along with his latest investment in The Times, the billionaire also boosted his holdings in Saks.) It's also worth pointing out that Slim is one of the single largest shareholders of The Times, but because of the way the shares are structured, he'll never have the chance to control seize control of the company from the owners, the Sulzberger family.